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* a 

An Old Layman Questions Himself 
about the Present Time 


Holt, Rinehart and Winston 

New York Chicago San Francisco 


Preface, p. ix 
1 A. D. 1966, p. 1 


Thanksgiving, p. 1 

Three contradictory descriptions, p. 4 

2 Our Cockeyed Times, p. 12 

Itching Ears, p. 12 

Epistemological time-worship, p. 12 
Logophobia, p. 14 

Contemporary Trends, Especially the Trends of 
“Left” and “Right,” p. 21 

At the time of the “Letter on Independence,” p. 21 
Today, p. 24 

3 The World and Its Contrasting Aspects, p. 28 

The Religious or “Mystical” Truth Concerning the World In Its 
Relation With the Kingdom of God, p. 28 
God so loved the world, p. 29 
The world hates me, p. 32 
Some conclusions, p. 35 
The “Ontosophic” Truth, p. 38 

Concerning the world in its natural structures, p. 38 
The natural end of the world, p. 40 
On the temporal mission of the Christian, p. 41 
A Long Misunderstanding With Bitter Fruit, p. 44 
. Speculative vocabulary and practical vocabulary, p. 44 

The “contempt of the world” and its perilous vicissitudes, p. 46 
Schema XIII, p. 50 

The Teaching Church Has Put An End to the Long 
Misunderstanding, p. 50 



Kneeling Before the World, p. 53 

Factual behavior and thought more or less confused, p. 53 
The Saints and the world, p. 58 
The insane mistake, p. 60 

4 The True New Fire — Christians and Non-Christians, p. 64 

The announcement of a new age, p. 64 
Practical cooperation in a divided world, p. 65 
Brotherly love among men who are all (at least potentially) 
members of Christ, p. 70 
Two short anecdotes, p. 78 
The law of the cross, p. 79 

5 The True New Fire — The Liberation of the 
Intelligence, p. 84 

Preliminary notice, p. 84 
The Truth, p. 87 

A few words on the capacity of human reason, p. 94 

Philosophy and ideosophy, p. 98 

The liberation of philosophic eros, p. 104 

Contemporary phenomenology, p. 107 

The need for fables or intellectual false currency, p. 112 

Teilhard de Chardin and Teilhardism, p. 116 

6 The True New Fire — The Requests and Renewals 
of Genuine Knowledge, p. 127 

A great wise man, p. 127 

The intuition of Being and the contemplation of Being itself 
subsisting by itself, p. 132 
The philosophy of St. Thomas, p. 135 
Philosophy and theology, p. 141 
Truth and freedom, p. 166 
Vita'i lampada tradunt , p. 170 

7 The True New Fire — The Affairs of God's Kingdom, p. 174 

The One and Holy, p. 174 

The personality of the Church, p. 175 
The Church, Bride and mystical Body, p. 176 


The Church, kingdom of God begun here on earth, p. 183 
The Church, Holy and Penitent, p. 185 
The Church, People of God, p. 189 
Contemplation in the World, p. 194 
By way of introduction, p. 194 

A digression (on the temporal mission of the Christian), p. 198 
Another digression (on the condition of the layman) and 
the end of the introduction, p. 205 
The two necessary aids on the never-ending road, p. 213 
Liturgy, p. 214 
Contemplation, p. 220 

The diversity of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, p. 229 
Contemplation on the roads, p. 232 
The Disciples — James and John, p. 254 
The True Face of God, or Love and the Law 
(text by Raissa), p. 257 

Appendices, p. 261 

1 On a text of Saint Paul, p. 261 

2 On two studies concerning the theology of 
Pere Teilhard, p. 264 

3 A short epistemological digression, p. 270 

4 On the unity and visibility of the Church, p. 274 


The subtitle of this book needs no explanation. I 
will merely note that in the expression "an old lay- 
man” the word "old” has a twofold meaning: it says 
that the author is an octogenarian, and that he is an 
inveterate layman. 

As for the title, it is explained by the fact that 
there is no Danube in France, and that the Little 
Brothers of Jesus, with whom I stay, live at Toulouse 
on the Garonne River. Consequently, given my pur- 
pose, I considered the Garonne a suitable equivalent 
for the Danube. A peasant of the Danube— or of the 
Garonne— is, as anyone who has read La Fontaine 
knows, a man who puts his foot in his mouth, or 
who calls a spade a spade. This is what, in all mod- 
esty, and not without fearing to be unequal to the 
task (less easy, to be sure, than one might believe), 
I would like to attempt. 

December 31, 1965 

Jacques Maritain 


A. D. 1966 


I turn first to the holy visible Church (she is, I realize, invisible as 
well), the Roman Catholic Church, which on December 8, 1965, 
brought to a close her second Vatican Council. Where does this holy 
Church find herself visibly manifested in her universality? In the ecu- 
menical assembly which is the Council, and in the individual person 
who is the Pope, the first taking its existence and full authority from 
the second; both assisted by the spirit of God, clothed in the white- 
ness of truth, and crowned with charisms that bring on this poor earth 
some reflections of Eternal Light. And in beholding the Church, I 
kneel (thats a vanishing custom, but so much the worse) in pro- 
found thanksgiving. 

For everything the Council has decreed and accomplished, I give 
thanks. For still other things I would doubtless have liked to give 
thanks if the Council had also done them. But it was obviously not 
called to do those things: from the beginning, and by the will of John 
XXIII himself, it was pastoral rather than doctrinal (although it de- 
voted two of its Constitutions to important points of doctrine). And 
it is clear that this was in response to a providential design; for 
the historic task, the immense renewal that it had to bring about, had 
to do with progress in evangelical awareness and attitudes of the heart 
rather than with defining dogmas. 

Good heavens, weren't these dogmas defined, once and for all? 
(For the new dogmatic definitions that come with time simply make 
explicit and complete the old ones; they don’t change them in any 
way.) Wasn’t the Church’s doctrine established with certitude, and 
on bases solid enough to permit endless progress, by all the preceding 
Councils and by a oenturies-old labor? What man, having received 
theological faith, could be foolish enough to imagine that eternal 



certitudes would begin to waver, to grow hollow with doubts and 
question marks, to dissolve themselves in the stream of time? 

No one, however, has to look very far to marvel at the resources of 
human foolishness, and to understand that foolishness and theologi- 
cal faith can certainly keep house in the same brain, and hold a dia- 
logue there— as everybody is doing now with everybody else— even 
though such contact is likely to prove unhealthy for the latter. 

I will have to come back to this, although it scarcely amuses me, in 
order to say something about the neo-modernism that flourishes 

For the moment, I would like to continue my thanksgiving in 


It is a joy to think that the true idea of freedom— of that freedom 
to which man aspires in his profoundest self, and which is one of the 
privileges of the spirit— is henceforth recognized and given a place of 
honor among the great germinal ideas of Christian wisdom; and like- 
wise the true idea of the human person, and of his dignity and his 

It is a joy to think that religious freedom has now been proclaimed, 
— this is not any freedom to believe or not to believe according to my 
momentary disposition, and to fashion an idol at my pleasure, as if I 
did not have a fundamental obligation to Truth; it is the freedom that 
each human person has, in the face of the State or any temporal power 
whatever, to watch over his eternal destiny while seeking truth with 
all his soul and complying with it as he knows it, and to obey what 
his conscience holds as true in matters of religion (my conscience is 
not infallible but I never have the right to act against it). And at the 
same time it was proclaiming religious freedom, the Council placed in 
a new light, which our time particularly needs, the sacred treasures of 
Catholic doctrine concerning the Church and Revelation. 

It is a joy to think that the Church, with increasing vigor and a new 
accent, enjoins us to treat really as brothers— as brothers whose friend- 
ship is for us an invaluable gift, and for whom our zeal to save their 
souls does not require that we convert them into ashes if they are 
heretics, but in each of whom we should honor the human race, and 
see Christ's gaze on them and on ourselves— yes, treat as brothers all 



those whom we know more or less distant from the Truth, whether 
they are Christians who do not accept the Catholic Creed, or the 
faithful of a non-Christian religion, or atheists. The Council especially 
noted that such fraternal sentiments are due the Jewish people; anti- 
Semitism is an anti-Christian aberration. 

It is a joy to think that the Church recognizes and declares more ex- 
plicitly than ever the vsjue, beauty, and dignity of this world which, 
nevertheless, she sees “in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), 
insofar as it refuses to be redeemed— this world with all those goods of 
nature which bear the mark of their Creator's generosity, and of which 
many, however, are at one time or another tom from us by the holy 
Cross, in view of other goods that invisibly bring heaven to earth. 

It is a joy to think that the Church, which as such is occupied solely 
with the spiritual domain, or with things quae sunt Dei , affirms and 
blesses the temporal mission of the Christian. 

It is a joy to think that the Church has now emphatically high- 
lighted the status of her lay members. Of course, it has always been 
known that laymen belonged to the mystical Body of Christ, but 
they have long been believed tied to the follies of the age, and to a 
state, if I may say so, normally recognized as Christian imperfection. 
It is now clear to all that insofar as they are members of the mystical 
Body, they too are called to the perfection of charity and the wisdom 
of the Holy Spirit, and to the labors through which the kingdom of 
God is expanded. Besides, as members of the earthly city, who work 
directly on their own responsibility and initiative for the well-being 
and progress of the temporal order, it is normally up to them to instill 
into such a work what can be transmitted of the spirit of the Gospel, 
and of the intelligence and wisdom that reason and faith together 

It is a joy to think that the Pope “neither wants to nor ought to ex- 
ercise henceforth any power other than that of his spiritual keys,” 1 
and that at the summit of the Church's towers he watches, in union 
with the efforts of bishops of the entire world, to maintain intact the 
immense treasure of truth with which Christ's Church is entrusted, 
while fully carrying out in its integrity the immeasurably significant 
renewal launched by the Council. 


1 Paul VI, Discourse to the Roman Nobility , January 14, 1964. 



In truth, every vestige of the Holy Empire is today liquidated; we 
have definitely emerged from the sacral age and* the baroque age. 
After sixteen centuries 2 which it would be shameful to slander or 
claim to repudiate, but which have completed their death agony and 
whose grave defects were incontestable, a new age begins; the Church 
invites us to understand better the goodness and the humanity 3 of 
God our Father, and calls us to recognize at the same time all the 
dimensions of that hominem integrum whom the Pope spoke of in 
his discourse of December 7, 1965, at the last meeting of the Council. 

Here is accomplished the great reversal of virtue of which it is no 
longer the human which takes charge of defending the divine, but the 
divine which offers itself to defend the human (if the latter does not 
refuse the aid offered). 

The Church has broken the ties which pretended to protect her, 
and has rid herself of burdens which people used to think equipped 
her better for the work of salvation. Free henceforth from these bur- 
dens and these ties, she mirrors better the true face of God, which is 
Love, and for herself asks only liberty. 4 She spreads her wings of light. 

Will they shelter our cities and our fields if the world, for its part, 
decides to leave her truly free? Or will they serve her to flee to the 
desert, if the world sets itself against her in order to enslave her and 
bind her in chains? These things are not predetermined in human his- 
tory, they depend on our unforeseeable choices. 


One of the fundamental axioms of a sane philosophy of history, I 
have often noted, is that the history of the world progresses at the 
same time in the line of evil and in the line of good. In certain periods 
—our own, for example— one sees the effects of this simultaneous 
double progress erupting in a kind of explosion. This does not make it 
easy to describe these moments in man's history. It then becomes 
necessary to propose several contradictory descriptions, all of which 
will be true. Moreover, the three descriptions I would like to propose 

2 My reckoning begins with the century of Constantine (the Edict of Milan, 
313). It is a simplification which I believe permissible. 

3 Benignitas et humanitas (<t>i\av0p<*nrla) Salvatoris nostri Dei (Tit. 3:4). 

4 Paul VI, Message to the Heads of Government , December 8, 1965. 



touch only on certain aspects of our time, those of spiritual order. 

Let us turn no longer to the holy Church visibly manifested in her 
universality, let us turn to the Western world (I speak of it because I 
know it a little less badly than I do the others), and let us think of the 
workings which are taking place in its depths. It appears to be a great 
age. The rationalist and positivist visions of the universe seem com- 
pletely out-of-date, people are sick of them (let us forget for a mo- 
ment that there are worse visions). An immense spiritual ferment, 
immense religious aspirations are at work. Souls are hungry for au- 
thenticity, frankness, devotion to a common task; they discover with a 
kind of intoxication the mystery of the human being, the possibilities 
and the demands of fraternal love. It is like a nostalgia for the Gospel 
and for Jesus. 

And there, where a nearer and more urgent call is heard— be it in 
relatively limited sectors, though more populous than one thinks, be 
it sometimes in very tiny flocks, but whose initiatives count more than 
anything (poor contemporaries of the atomic bomb, what is facing os 
is the power of micro-actions) *— we find a burning and purified faith, 
a passion for the absolute, a fervent presentiment of the liberty, the 
breadth and variety of the ways of God, a whole-hearted longing for 
the perfection of charity, all of which are seeking and finding for us 
new means of giving our lives to bear witness to the love of Jesus for 
all men and to the generosity of God's spirit 


So much for the first description. The second says completely the 
opposite. When one considers the neo-modem ist ® fever (I was 
bound to mention this sooner or later), very contagious, at least in 
circles described as "intellectual," compared to which the modernism 
of Piux X's time was only a modest hayfever, and which finds expres- 
sion above all in the most advanced thinkers among our Protestant 

* The saints have always known this — they had read the Gospel. 

• The word modernism has aged, but nevertheless l do not know a better; and 
to have aged makes it especially good: for nothing ages so quickly as fashion, and 
those theories which make froth or its ococertaal formulations a function of time. 
The “peispectrrttm” pretend* t>ot to be mo&emisfr because it holds that a simitax 
unalterable troth can be expressed by conceptual formulas fiacompatible with each 
other which come successively to the surface in the course of time. Let us leave it 
to its illimoai. 



brothers , 7 but is also active in equally advanced Catholic thinkers, 
this second description gives us the picture 8 of a kind of “imma- 
nent” apostasy (that is, which intends to remain Christian at all 
costs). In preparation for many years, hastened by certain veiled 
hopes of the repressed regions of the soul which were stirred up here 
and there on the occasion of the Council, the manifold manifestation 
of this apostasy is sometimes falsely ascribed to the “spirit of the 
Council,” or even to the “spirit of John XXIII.” We know well to 
whom it is proper to trace the paternity of such lies (and so much the 
better if in this way man finds himself a little exonerated). But the 
point is, people no longer believe in the devil and in the bad angels, 
nor the good ones, naturally. They are only ethereal survivors of some 
Babylonian imagery. 

In such a nice perspective, the objective content to which the faith 
of our forefathers clung, all that is myth, like original sin for example, 
(isn't our big job today to get rid of the horrendous guilt complex?), 
and like the Gospel of the Infancy of Christ, the resurrection of the 
body, and the creation. And the Christ of history, of course. The 
phenomenological method and form criticism have changed every- 
thing. The distinction between human nature and grace is a scholastic 
invention like transubstantiation. As for hell, why take the trouble to 
deny it, it is simpler to forget it, and that's probably what we had also 
better do with the Incarnation and the Trinity. Frankly, do the mass 
of our Christians ever think of these things, or of the immortal soul 
and the future life? As for the Cross and the Redemption, ultimate 
sublimation of ancient myths and sacrificial rites, we should consider 
them as the great and stirring symbols, forever inscribed in our imagi- 
nation, of the labor and collective sacrifices needed to bring nature 
and humanity to the degree of unification and spiritualization — and of 
power over matter — where they will be delivered at last from all the 
old servitudes and will enter into a kind of glory. Will death then be 

7 The divergences and conflicts of ideas are as vast among Protestants as 
Catholics, and it could be that Taiz£, for example, can give the latter some useful 

8 What I have brought together in this picture are not the views of honest 
seekers, but of extremists whose names are well known to experts on these matters, 
along with the opinions which prevail in the milieux influenced by them — for 
example, among some priests who boast of no longer genuflecting before the 



vanquished? Perhaps science will discover how to make us immortal. 
(Why not? Descartes was already dreaming of it.) However, that is 
not what matters; what matters is the everlastingness of the cosmos, 
and the immortality of humanity glorified in it and with it. 

Our faith, having been thus duly emptied of every specific object, 
finally can become what it really was, a simple sublimating aspiration; 
we can be lifted up to a stat£ of complete euphoria by a powerful in- 
take of air, recite* with an enlightened fervor the Symbol (Creed) of 
the Apostles (symbol, what a predestined name!) and love, serve and 
adore Jesus with all our hearts, the Jesus of faith and of an interior, 
truly visceral Christianity. 

For with all this one is more Christian than ever. All these people 
have simply ceased to believe in Truth, and believe only in verisimili- 
tudes pinned to some truths (that is, statements or verifications of 
observable detail) which moreover grow obsolete overnight. Truth 
with a capital T, what does that mean? Quid est Veritas? We should 
recognize that Pilate got the picture, and that this procurator was a 
good “progressist.” One must use lower case letters everywhere. 
“Everything is relative, that is the only absolute principle”— as our 
Father Auguste Comte has already put it. We are done with classical 
positivism, true enough. But the fact remains that we live in Comte’s 
world: Science (the side of reason) completed by Myth (the side of 
sentiment). He has been a prophet of the first order. 

I might add that he was more honest than you, studious expurga- 
tors of revealed truths. He at least fabricated the myths of his “subjec- 
tive synthesis” fairly and squarely out of whole cloth, not, like you, by 
reinterpreting a whole religious heritage to which you believe yourself 
more faithful than anyone, nor by trying to deceive the thirst, and the 
heart, of those whose faith you imagine you share. 


This second description gives a more complete idea of our era. 
With it, however, we are still far from exhausting the subject. We 
must make a third, which in its turn will reveal other aspects. We 
know well that we cannot restrict ourselves to the words men utter 
in tire universe of logic, to what they are and do as evidenced by the 
conceptual terms they use; we must take into consideration what oc- 



cupies the depths of their psyche, what they are and do in the wholly 
singular domain of the irreducibly subjective and irrational, even that 
which at times escapes their own awareness. 

From this viewpoint, one can immediately observe that among all 
those who speak like Pilate, there are surely many who have not 
deliberately refused that desire for Truth without which one is not a 
man. Among all the men of science whose sole concern seems to be 
inventing new approaches or hypotheses, there are surely many who in 
reality, whatever they may say, do not prefer seeking to finding. 
Would they put so much care and toil into seeking verifications of a 
passing day if, in the unconscious or supra-conscious regions of their 
minds, they were not seeking and loving the Truth without realizing 
it themselves? 

But what is most important to notice, on the other hand, is that the 
frenzied modernism of today is incurably ambivalent. Its natural 
bent, although it would deny it, is to ruin the Christian faith. Yes, it 
busies itself as best it can to empty the faith of any content. But along 
with that, among a good number of its adherents, there is something 
like an effort to render to this faith a kind of desperate witness. It is 
certainly with sincerity, and sometimes in the fever and anguish of a 
fundamentally religious soul, that the leaders of our neo-modernism 
declare themselves Christians. Let us not forget that they are victims 
of a certain pre-accepted philosophy, a Grand Sophistry (we know 
Being , on condition that it is put in parenthesis and abstracted out of 
sight). I will have a word to say about this in another chapter . 9 This 
permits people to speak intelligently, while playing on our heart- 
strings, about a whole armload of things which positivism had placed 
under interdict, and is far more successful than positivism in prevent- 
ing us from finding the least extramental reality in them, the least 
that exists independently of our mind. There is nothing left for the 
intellect to do but discourse on verisimilitudes, the cost of which is 
borne by what 'takes place in human subjectivity. To affirm the exist- 
ence of a transcendent God becomes from this moment a non-sense. 
Divine transcendence is only the mythical projection of a certain col- 
lective fear experienced by man at a given moment in his history. In 
general, according to the pre-accepted philosophy to which I am 
alluding, everything that tastes of a world other than the world of man 

9 Cf. Ch. 5, p. 106. 



can only fall under the head of the out-of-date if it is a question of the 
"background world” of poor philosophic realists, or, of the Myth if it 
is a question of the supernatural world of religions. 

This is the intelligible heaven, the Denkmittel accepted as self- 
evident (that is to say, as demanded by the age), and the taboos to 
which our most liberal J(th4t is to say the most conformist) theolo- 
gians and exegetes have submitted their thought. Poor "sophisticated” 
Christians, it is Socrates they would need. 

One has to be quite naive to enlist in the service of such a philoso- 
phy if one has the Christian faith (which is nothing without the 
Word— infinitely independent of human subjectivity— of a revealing 
God who is infinitely independent of our mind). This is especially so 
if one belongs to the Catholic religion, which of all religions (along 
with the religion of Israel — benedicite , omnia opera Domini, Dom- 
ino) is most steadfast in recognizing and affirming the reality— irre- 
docibly, splendidly, generously in itself — of the beings whom the 
Creator has made, and the transcendence of this Other, who is the 
Truth in person and Being itself subsisting by itself, in whom we live 
and move and have our being, 10 the living God by whose strength we 
live, 11 and who loves us and whom we love. For to love is to give what 
one is, his very being, in the most absolute, the most brazenly meta- 
physical, the least phenomenalizable sense of this word. But we must 
put all this in parentheses, too, mustn't we, if we are to follow the 
new golden rule? And once someone has been taken in hand, and sur- 
rounded on all sides by the so-called philosophy in which he has put 
his trust, what can become of him if he does not side with those who 
flatly deny Christ? With a soul split between doubt and a nostalgic 
tenacity— and a pity full of fright for the modem world, in which a 
total reshaping of religion seems the last bulwark against atheism— it 
will become necessary to set out in search of heroic remedies to en- 
able faith in Jesus Christ to survive in a mental climate essentially in- 
compatible with it. Why be astonished that so many modernists 
believe they have a mission to save a dying Christianity — their dying 
Christianity for the modern world? It is for this goal that, as good 
soldiers of Christ, they devote themselves to such an exhausting work 

1# A ct 4 17:28. 

11 Cor. 13:4. 



of hermeneutic evacuation. Even their fideism, contrary as it is to 
Christian faith, is nevertheless a sincere and tortured witness to this 

Clothed in the panoply of God, shod with zeal, armed with the 
breastplate of justice, the helmet of salvation, the shield of the faith, 
and the sword of the spirit? This armor of Saint Paul 12 is certainly 
not for them, it is only a museum piece. I see them, rather, hanging 
by one hand from Jacob's ladder, kicking wildly all the while, and, 
with their free hand, tossing one another telescripts of the most 
recent hypotheses. You can't deny it's daring, but look out for cramps. 

The author of Honest to God 13 is an Anglican bishop, so totally 
disheartened by the religious indifference of his contemporaries that 
in his struggle to help them he accommodates divine things in a way 
that will become acceptable to them and will at last awaken their 
appetite. He, too, is a fighter for the faith. If he offers us a dog-tired 
Christianity which goes along with the stream (his famous ‘'Christi- 
anity without religion"), it is because he is a worried and helpless 
good Samaritan who wants so much to save addicts that he opens a 
shop where he can give them all free drugs in capsules and packets 
labeled “to the Divine Lamb." And man is such a bizarre animal— it 
could happen, after all, that one of these addicts, at the hour of his 
death, might take comfort in thinking that someone loved him, and 
remember the name of Jesus. 

From quite another point of view, we may note finally that if 
temporal activity and the necessary transformations called for by the 
present state of the world seem to fascinate a good many young 
Christians, both clergy and laymen, to such an extent that this alone 
counts in their eyes, and that they passionately undertake to secularize 
their Christianity completely— from now on, everything for the earth! 
—yet their fundamental motive, to which they blindly give complete 
priority, is actually a burning desire to make the witness of the Gospel 
enter history. Again the oddness of human nature: it is with a worried 

12 Eph. 6:13-17. 

19 It is known that this work was published in France through the efforts of a 
review, a little Machiavellian in its orthodoxy, with the idea of turning people away 
from modernism by making them see the final aberration to which it was leading 
them, from surrender to surrender. To the surprise and chagrin of the publishers, 
the book revealed itself an extraordinary best-seller, everybody threw themselves 
on it enthusiastically. 



faith, quite insufficiently enlightened, and yet profoundly sincere in 
Jesus Christ, that they betray the Gospel by dint of serving it— after 
their fashion. 


The three descriptions I have proposed are mutually contradictory 
yet equally true, because all three, while including, in a certain sense, 
the mass of our contemporaries, do not aim at the same polarities in 
men’s souls. Frankly, I'm fed up with such descriptions, and I have no 
intention of making a sociological or clinical portrait of my times. I 
question myself, not as to the value of our times, but as to the values 
which have an impact on them. It is not our era that worries me, but 
the ideas one runs into at every street corner, some of which could 
certainly stand a good scrubbing. Before starting to discuss ideas and 
problems, however, I would like to make two more remarks 14 re- 
garding the collective behavior we observe today. 

14 Each will constitute a section of the next chapter. 


Itching Ears 


This is the sickness announced by Saint Paul for a time to come 
( erit enim tempus . . .), but from which no time, it seems, has been 
completely immune. As a matter of fact, our own time seems to have 
broken all records handsomely. 

It should be noted that Saint Paul makes professors play a central 
role in the spread of the sickness. A time will come, he tells us , 1 when 
men will be taken in tow by a crowd of didaskaloi because their ears 
will itch. In other words, this sickness— which is very contagious, to 
judge from appearances— will have its breeding ground among the 
experts or the professors. And the itching in the ears will become so 
general that no one will be able to hear the truth any longer, and men 
will turn to fables — epi tous muthous, writes Saint Paul, to myths. But 
hold on, aren't these the precious myths on which we're gorging our- 
selves? Of course they are, but they are not the great venerable myths 
of the youth of mankind. Our craving is for the myths of decay, a 
sterile and synthetic lot (the work of professors)— in particular the 
myths of demythizing. (I shall make use of this word, which is now 
current in French jargon.) 

Was it to cure these morbid cravings that Pere Ubu (the funny 
ogre invented by a famous French humorist) threatened to “box our 
ears"? A sorry remedy, since it is from malnutrition and a serious 
vitamin deficiency that our illness comes in the first place. 

Here, it seems to me, is the moment to call attention briefly to 
two major symptoms. The first symptom, and the one that concerns 
me here, is an obsessive fixation on the passing of time, epistemologi- 

1 “Erit enim tempus, cum sanam doctrinam non sustinebunt, sed ad sua desideria 
coaceivabunt sibi magistros, prurientes auribus. Et a veritate quidem auditum 
avertent, ad fabulas autem convertentur.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4.) 



cal time-worship. To be passe is to be banished to Sheol. Could an 
author who is pass6 have said something true? After all, it's not in- 
conceivable. But anyway, it's irrelevant because, since he is pass£, what 
he said no longer exists. 

This chronolatry entails vast human sacrifices— in other terms it 
carries with it a component of masochism. To think of the admirable 
abnegation (not modesty, probably, but a wish to be drowned in 
time) of a contemporary biblical scholar is enough to make one's 
head spin. He kills himself with work, he gives his life's blood, only to 
find himself passe in two years. And this will continue all his life. 
And when he dies, he will be pas s6 for good. His work will merely en- 
able others to pass him by and then be passed by in their turn. But of 
his own thought, not a trace will remain. 

We do not find such masochistic abnegation among philosophers, 
because fashion, in their case, lasts somewhat longer (twenty years, 
perhaps, thirty in the most favourable instances). They have time to 
spin themselves some illusions, they can hope that at least during 
their own lifetime they will not become passe. What is surprising is 
the form that epistemological time-worship takes with them. Each 
takes his turn calling into question, in order to innovate, what his 
immediate predecessors (incurably passe from that moment) have 
said, but for nothing in the world would he dream of calling into ques- 
tion the work achieved prior to them by Time— at least in the line of 
descent leading to him. As to the philosophical lines of descent prior 
to his own, he doesn't give a hoot for them (they are pass6); but as 
he sees it, the line leading to him is there (at least in the sense that it 
continues to engender), and that is all he needs; he has no need to 
know whether at the start it was or was not lacking in truth. 2 The 
point which the curve has reached just before him is the only base 
from which he can begin; it is sacred and unquestionable. 

In one form or another, it is always the adoration of the ephemeral, 
whether to be devoured by it, or to accept, with eyes closed, what it 

2 Of course, it is always in discovering new horizons that a great philosopher 
loses his bead. In otbeT words, if a shortcoming which will cause everything to 
deviate occurred at the start of his line of descent, there were, at the same time, 
potential gain* that demanded (in vain) to be actualized in a true perspective. 
And the wise men who could have integrated them with their treasures were 
perhaps Sleeping on the latter; or possibly they were busy giving courses to dis- 
tracted students, or disputing one another. But all that is another story. . . . 


has engendered (in the line of descent leading to him) up to the 
time he enters the list himself. 

By being concerned for truth, and by grasping it, the spirit tran- 
scends time. To make the things of the spirit pass under the law of 
the ephemeral— which is the law of matter and the purely biological 
—to act as if the spirit were subject to the lord of the flies, is the first 
sign, the first major symptom of the sickness denounced by Saint 


The other symptom which I would like to point out is the degrada- 
tion that takes place in the nature of the rational animal when he 
begins to lose confidence not only in philosophic knowledge but in 
the spontaneous pre-philosophy which is for man like a gift of nature 
included in that indispensable equipment we call common sense, 
and which is concealed as much as it is expressed by everyday lan- 
guage. Let us beware when we hear denigrated, on the pretext that 
they are “linguistic categories,” those primary notions which men 
would be quite embarrassed to justify precisely because they are the 
result of primitive intuitions, born in the preconscious of the spirit, 
but which are at the roots of human life (when it is truly human). 
When everyone starts scorning these things, obscurely perceived by 
the instinct of the spirit, such as good and evil, moral obligation, 
justice, law, or even extra-mental reality, truth, the distinction be- 
tween substance and accident, the principle of identity— it means that 
everyone is beginning to lose his head. 

Let them invoke the slogan of linguistic categories as much as they 
like. It is not language that makes concepts, but concepts that make 
language. And the language that expresses them always more or less 
betrays them. There are primitive languages that have no word for 
the idea of being, but that is a far cry from saying that those who 
speak them do not have this idea in their mind. 

And there are never words for what it would be most important for 
us to say. Isn't it because of that that we need poets and musicians? 

Language fouls and cheapens all the primary notions and intui- 
tions I have just mentioned: if they are theoretical, by the practical 



use it makes of them in the routines of daily life; if they are of the 
moral order, by the social use it makes of them in the rites of the 
tribe, superadding to them extrinsic meanings which have no value 
for the mind in quest of truth. 

The 6rst duty of philosophers would be to scour carefully all these 
notions in order to uncover the purity of their authentic meaning — 
a diamond hidden under rubbish— which is dependent on being, not 
on human usage. But as a rule, 5 philosophers take good care not to 
wear themselves out with such cleansing; and our children of Des- 
cartes prefer to carry on with their easier and more profitable task of 
destroying reason with their Grand Sophistry, their parenthesizing of 
reality and their Phenomenalizing of philosophic knowledge itself, 
for which they would like so much to find a place in the amusement 
park, the night clubs and the dream factories of the world of technoc- 
racy. In the final count, because people read philosophers, the philos- 
ophers foster in their minds a corrosive doubt about the value of that 
pre-philosophy which people are constantly obliged to use, but in 
which they are believing less and less. 

Furthermore, while the idea of authentic philosophic knowledge 
is disappearing from our cultural universe, and the regime of truth to 
be earnestly beheld is undergoing eclipse, we are confronted with the 
dazzling advent of modern science with its symbolic language— and of 
that approach to the real which has in common with magic the trait of 
handling and mastering, through signs, what remains unknown in 
itself— and of that mathematization of the observable (especially in 
physics) which has made possible prodigious successes but (in spite 
of the genuine intellectual concerns of many scientists) submits the 
mind to the rule of verification to be performed. All of this leads 
everyone, learned and ignorant (and even the unfortunate philoso- 
phers), to believe that science— the science of phenomena— is alone 
capable of bringing us the certainty of rational knowledge. And all 
this also causes people to doubt the value of the spontaneous pre- 
philosophy expressed by the language of common sense. 

Result: this pre-philosophy is disintegrating; and in terms of the 
primordial conditions laid down by his nature in the exercise of his 
reason, man becomes similar to an animal that has lost its instincts, 
to a bee that no longer has the instinct to make its honey, to penguins 

3 Except for some arc Thoinists. . . . 



and albatrosses that no longer have the instinct to build their nests. 

Nevertheless, as disoriented as we are, we must go on thinking any- 
way. Quickly then, and whatever it costs, let's have anything what- 
ever to replace the effort we can no longer muster; bring on the 
fables! There you have the second major symptom I wanted to point 
out, and the form, malignant to be sure, of that ear-itching which par- 
ticularly afflicts our times. 


I know very well that more or less comparable forms of the same 
sickness have appeared before, particularly at the time of the Sophists 
and Socrates. In that era, it was not faith that this sickness threat- 
ened, but reason— not our blase reason of today, but reason in the 
springtime of its great self-discovery, of its great cultural victory in the 
history of mankind. Wasn't it required that some hundreds of years 
before the Incarnation of the Word, the necessary preparations be 
completed in Greece 4 on the side of Reason, as in Israel 5 on the 
side of Prophecy? 

Here is a useful place to pause for a moment and consider that 
astonishing period of human history from the beginning of the sixth 
century until the close of the fifth century b.c. One would say that 
in the major cultural areas of the world the human spirit was then 
going through its crisis of adolescence, and made choices that were to 
be decisive for the future. 

With the Buddha , 6 the Orient decisively confirmed the choice it 
had made long since for the great "bound" wisdoms in which reason, 
a captive of sacred traditions, remained united to the nocturnal or twi- 
light world of myths (and of magic). At this price, it entered into 
certain secrets hidden in the recesses of the universe and of the human 
being, it went deeply into the ways of natural mystique, and attained 
a lofty peace .of purely human self-possession (at least among those 

4 Heraclitus, 576-480; Socrates, 470-399. He was dead when the fourth century 
began; Plato, 427-348; Aristotle, 384-322. 

5 Jeremiah, toward the beginning of the sixth century; the second Isaiah and 
the Canticle of Canticles, end of the sixth century; Job, Ecclesiastes, fifth century; 
building of the second Temple, 520-515 b.c. 

6 Buddha, 563-483; Lao-tse, toward the beginning of the sixth century; Con- 
fucius, 551-479. (If I speak here of “the Orient” in general, it is because of the 
fact that Buddhism, bom in India, passed over into China.) 



who had the good fortune to complete the way of initiation). But 
these great wisdoms received so many riches from the world of dreams 
that reason was unwilling to emerge completely from the night. The 
proper domain of metaphysics, that of religion and its rites, that of the 
spiritual life (even the realm of “powers,” even when one claimed not 
to seek them) remained undifferentiated; God and the world were 
mingled with each other because in such kinds of wisdom God was 
transcendent only oh condition that the world was illusory, and by the 
same token God was no longer transcendent. The human mind lived 
under the sway of the indefinite . 7 Its relation to extra-mental being 
remained ambiguous, since the latter was ultimately illusory when it 
was a case of things, and inseparable from the human Self when it was 
a case of the divine Self. The possibility of a wisdom which should at 
the same time be a purely rational knowledge remained totally un- 

At about the same period, Greece, by contrast, opted for a free 
wisdom, in which reason, passing to the “solar” 8 state, decided to risk 
everything by breaking once and for all with its centuries-old subjec- 
tion to the twilight world of myths. (These latter would doubtlessly 
continue to haunt the temples and the mystery cults, but adult 
thought would no longer believe in them.) 

At the beginning, things had almost gone askew, with the intellec- 
tual intoxication of the sophists, and their reason dedicated solely to 
Verisimilitude. But Socrates saved at once reason, the future of cul- 
ture and the rights of Truth. He died for it, not on the cross, as the 
Word who became man in Israel did, but by taking hemlock, and 
repaying his debt to Aesculapius, like a good Athenian pagan. 

A supreme Wisdom of reason, a Wisdom which was also Scientia or 
Knowledge, Metaphysics was founded; and Physics, a science of the 
observable world— which, confusing the philosophy of nature with 
the science of phenomena, believed itself in respect to phenomena 
(to its unhappiness as well as ours) in continuity with metaphysics. 
The distinction between theoretical knowledge and practical knowl- 
edge wa* recognized, like that between metaphysics and religion. 

T Cf. Louis Gardet, 4, L’<rffToniement de $ humanismes ” Nova et Vetera, 
Octobcr-Dccember 1954, pp. 242-242. 

8 Cf. our study “Sign* et Sytnbole in Quatre Essais sur Vesprit dans sa condi- 
tion charndU, Paris, Dcscl6e Dc Brouwer, 1939; 2nd cd., Paris, Alsatia, 1956, 
pp. 80-106. 



Reason also came to recognize the existence of a God distinct from 
the world, but whose transcendence was ignored and who was only 
the First among the gods. The great error of Greek reason (for which 
the supernatural Wisdom of Israel, with its infinite and infinitely per- 
fect God, providentially compensated) was to confuse Finitude and 
Perfection, and to pretend to make the spirit live under the rule of 
the finite . 9 

On the other hand, and here especially Socrates, saved the future 
of culture, Greek reason was able to become aware of that glory of 
the mind which is Knowing, and of the authentic relation between 
the mind and the extra-mental being of things. In an impulse arrested 
too soon, and for a fleeting, unforgettable moment, it had the sense 
of being; it was able to see that the human intellect, in identifying 
itself immaterially, intentionaliter , with the being of things, truly 
reaches that which exists outside our minds, beginning with the world 
of matter to which, through our senses, we are naturally adapted. 


The great adventure into which the choice made by Greece 
launched the world marked a decisive step forward. From the begin- 
ning, doubtlessly, it also entailed losses: in Hellenic and Hellenistic 
thought itself it was accompanied by grave shortcomings, which the 
Christian centuries have remedied in the light of the revelation re- 
ceived in Israel. No doubt Western culture, which has its point of 
departure in this adventure, has experienced in the last four centuries 
more and more grave crises in the intellectual order— with Descartes, 
Kant, Hegel, and finally with those who today propose to place us 
under the sway of Phenomena. The fact remains that in the com- 
monplace assertions (irritating like all commonplaces) of the Greek 
miracle , there is a fundamental truth which we have a duty to recog- 

At the same time, to return to the pre-philosophy of common sense 
discussed previously, we must equally recognize that even if, as I have 
said, it is a gift of nature, it depends not only on nature, but on cul- 
ture as well. In other words (and nothing is more in keeping with our 
nature, which itself demands the developments of culture), this pre- 
philosophy is a gift of nature received through the instrumentality of 

9 Cf. Louis Gardet, op. cit. 



culture, and in harmony with the characteristics of the great stages of 
culture. This means that the pre-philosophy which is (or was— -I have 
noted that it is in the process of disintegration) a gift of nature for 
the man of our Western culture, is the result of a two-fold privilege 
which this culture has enjoyed (and more or less squandered). On 
the one hand, it has been animated and exalted by the Judeo-Chris- 
tian tradition (a privilege supernatural in its origin: the divine revela- 
tion), while on the*othef (arid it is this privilege which I am now 
discussing), it was born of the "Greek miracle/’ which was no miracle 
at all, but a normal awakening of the natura rationalis to itself, the 
great awakening due to the passage, fully and decidedly consented to, 
of the human mind under the "solar” regime of the Logos . 10 

However annoying it may be for the egalitarian vocabulary which a 
certain diplomatic courtesy (quite fatiguing in the long run) would 
have us use, there is no way of ignoring that the development of 
humanity and of culture implies, as a matter of course, a scale of 
values. Each age, yes, even the most primitive, has its worth, to which 
it is imperative to render justice. And if the age which follows is a 
superior one, in reaching it man sustains certain losses. But the gains 
are greater. That there is a scale of values is implied by the very no- 
tion of progress. There are ages more or less fortunate, more or less 
privileged. There are civilizations, human groups, and individual men, 
who for a given work in a given connection, are the object of a certain 
election— I am speaking of a natural election (or of the chosen ones of 
History, as one would say today). Christians who are nurtured on the 
idea of an election of grace (the chosen people, Abraham, Moses, 
John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints of heaven) would 
be misguided indeed if, because of their own good nature and their 
desire to be kind to everyone, they were scandalized by the idea of 
such a natural election or vocation, for God is the God of nature, too, 
and every artist chooses to his liking in order to create and perfect his 

I apologize for using so many words. I was only wanting to justify 
my assertion that, just as Western culture really is (or was) a privi- 
leged culture, so the pre-philosophy of common sense proper to the 
man of that culture is (or was) a privileged pre-philosophy, in which 
the notions of common sense (actually common to all men) have 

10 Cf. Quatre ettau sur tnpril, op. cit. 


(or had) reached a point of remarkably superior elaboration. This is 
what is disappearing before our eyes. 

I will note in closing that in taking their place in that “modem 
civilization” to which the entire world, whether we like it or not, is 
today invited, the peoples whose civilizations were developed under 
the great initiatory wisdoms of the East, maintain, deep in their 
hearts, a tenderness and veneration for these great wisdoms (and may 
they preserve and transmit to us many truths which deserve immor- 
tality ), 11 but do not seem to endeavor to rejuvenate and reinvigorate 
them; they know that such wisdoms belong to a past which they are 
leaving behind. 

They are passing into the technocratic age and into Western culture 
at the very instant, alas, when the latter seems to be degenerating; 
they bring their tribute to the Greek achievement of liberating adult 
reason at the very moment when this achievement is in jeopardy. And 
so we see them exposed to incalculable losses out of necessity but for 
a questionable gain. In entering modem civilization they leave the 
cultural regime of their own former wisdoms, but the world they are 
entering is itself turning away from the lofty rational (and supra - 
rational) wisdom to which it was called. It can no longer offer them 
either theological rationally elaborated wisdom (which its culture 
claims it can do without), or metaphysical rational wisdom, or phi- 
losophy worthy of the name (its philosophers, to distract it from its 
labors, make it hear the plaintive ballade of a being which is not being 
and a knowledge which is not knowledge). What such a world can 
offer is the magnificent ersatz of the science of Phenomena, and along 
with it, power over matter; a dream of complete domination of all 
visible things (even of the invisible) and also the abdication of the 
human mind, renouncing Truth for Verification, Reality for Sign. 

One would hope that the new arrivals who flock from the ends of 
the earth to take their part in the progress of modern civilization 
would bring us— but nothing is more doubtful, except perhaps for 
some of them who might turn to the Christian faith and the rational 
wisdoms it has nourished— help and assistance against the powerful 
Disgust with Reason, the joyous (no, it is not joyous) logophobia 
which is festering before our eyes. 

11 Cf. Louis Gardet, “Interpenetration des cultures,” Nova et Vetera, October- 
December, 1956, p. 282. 



Contemporary Trends, 

Especially the Trends of “Left” and “Right” 


* » 4 T " 

Ecumenism, it appears, asks us not only to be “open” to our fellow 
men, to their anguish, their problems, their need for recognition, but 
also to all contemporary trends. That is more difficult, for there is a 
little of everything in these trends, sometimes euphemistically re- 
ferred to as “currents of thought.” For example, the neo-modernism 
which I have already spoken about is one of our most active contem- 
porary currents. Besides, these trends are sometimes— what a pity! — 
directly opposed to one another (nature and history want it that 
way), like the so-called “left” and “right” trends which I particularly 
wish to consider in this second note. 

Long ago, I wrote a short book 12 in which I spoke of the mysteri- 
ous cleavage indicated by these terms, which refer not only to parlia- 
mentary benches, but to all the citizens. I drew there a distinction 
between two senses of the words “right” and “left,” a physiological 
sense and a political sense. In the first sense one is of the “right” or of 
the “left” by a disposition of temperament, just as the human being 
is bom bilious or sanguine. It is useless, in that meaning of the term, 
to pretend to be neither right nor left. All one can do is to correct 
one's temperament and bring it to an equilibrium which more or less 
approaches the point where the two tendencies converge. For at the 
extreme lower limit of these tendencies, a kind of monstrosity unfolds 
before the mind— on the right a pure cynicism, on the left a pure 
unrealism (or idealism, in the metaphysical sense of this word). 
The pure man of the left detests being, always preferring, in principle, 
in the words of Rousseau , 13 what is not to what is. The pure man of 
the right detests justice and charity, always preferring, in principle, in 
the words of Goethe (himself an enigma who masked his right with 

13 Lrttre tar I'lndSpendanct (Paris: Dcscl6e De Brouwer, 1935). Cf. Henry 
Bars, La Politique mlon Jacques Maritain (Paris: Editions Ouvri6rcs, 1961). 

18 “What is not is the only tiling that is beautiful/’ said Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 
And Jcan-Paul Sartre: “The real is never beautiful.” 



his left), injustice to disorder. Nietzsche is a noble and a beautiful 
example of the man of the right, and Tolstoy, of the man of the left. 

In the second sense, the political sense, left and right designate 
ideals, energies, and historic formations into which the men of these 
two opposing temperaments are normally drawn to group themselves. 
Here again, considering the circumstances in which a given country 
finds itself at a given moment, it is impossible for anyone who takes 
political realities seriously not to orient himself either to the right or 
to the left. Yet things get so confused in this matter that men of the 
right sometimes practice a politics of the left, and vice versa. I think 
Lenin is a good example of the first case. There are no more dreadful 
revolutions than revolutions of the left carried out by men of rightist 
temperament. There are no weaker governments than governments 
of the right run by leftist temperaments (Louis XVI) . 

But things look completely spoiled when, at certain moments of 
deep trouble, the political formations of right and left, instead of 
being each a more or less high-spirited team held in check by a more 
or less firm political reason, have become nothing more than exasper- 
ated affective complexes carried away by their myth-ideal; from that 
point on, political intelligence can do nothing but practice ruses in the 
service of passion. Under those conditions, to be neither right nor left 
means simply that one intends to keep his sanity . 14 

This is what I tried my best to do, at a time when things were al- 
ready quite spoiled (“I am neither left nor right /' 15 even though by 
temperament I am what people call a man of the left). By keeping 
one's sanity I did not mean taking refuge in some kind of neutrality, 
but preparing the way for a political activity that would be “authenti- 
cally and vitally Christian." In other words I had in mind a politics 
which, while drawing its inspiration from the Christian spirit and 
Christian principles, would involve only the initiative and responsi- 
bility of the citizens who conduct it, without being in the slightest 
degree a politics dictated by the Church or committing her to respon- 
sibility. May I add that until today— and despite (or because of) the 
entry on the scene, in different countries, of political parties labeled 
“Christian" (most of which are primarily combinations of electoral 
interests) — the hope for the advent of a Christian politics (corres- 

14 Lettre $ur Vlndtpendance , pp. 42-43, 4 3—44. 

15 Ibid.y p. 9. 


2 3 

ponding in the practical order to what a Christian philosophy is in the 
speculative order) has been completely frustrated. I know only one 
example of an authentic “Christian revolution/' and that is what 
President Eduardo Frei is attempting at this very moment in Chile, 
and it is not sure that he will succeed. (It is also true that among 
those of my contemporaries still living as I write these lines, I see in 
the Western world no more than three revolutionaries worthy of the 
name— Eduardo Frei in phik* Saul Alinsky 18 in America, . . . and 
myself in France, who am not worth beans, since my call as a 
philosopher has obliterated my possibilities as an agitator. . . .) 

But let us leave this digression. Possibly it will be of some use to 
repeat here what I said in that distant epoch: 

“The whole question here comes down to knowing if one believes 
that an authentically and vitally Christian politics can arise in history 
and is now invisibly being prepared. It comes down to knowing if 
Christianity should incarnate itself to that extent, if the temporal 
mission of the Christian should go that far, if the witness of love 
should descend that far; or whether we must abandon the world to 
the devil in that which is most natural to it— civic or political life. If 
we believe in the possibility of an authentically and vitally Christian 
politics, then our most urgent temporal duty is to work for its estab- 

. . A healthy Christian politics (that is a politics of Christian 
inspiration, but one which calls to itself all non-Christians who find it 
just and humane) would undoubtedly seem to go pretty far to the left 
as regards certain technical solutions, in its appreciation of the con- 
crete movement of history, and in its demands for the transformation 
of the present economic regime. In reality, however, it would have 
absolutely original positions, proceeding, in the spiritual and moral 
order, from very different principles than the conceptions of the 
world, life, the family, and the city, which prevail in the various 
parties of the left. 

“. . . Just as, in the spiritual order, which is supra-political, the 
liberty of the Christian requires that he be all things to all men, and 

1€ Saul Alinsky, who is a great friend of mine, is a courageous and admirably 
staunch organizer of “people's communities" and an anti-racist leader whose 
methods are is effective a* they are unorthodox. Cf. “The Professional Radical, 
Conversations with Saul Alina ky," Harper's Magazine , June, July, 1965. 

2 4 


carry his testimony to all comers, fostering everywhere those bonds 
of friendship, fraternal kindness, natural virtues of fidelity, devotion, 
and gentleness, without which we cannot really help each other, and 
without which supernatural charity, or what we take for it, is in danger 
of freezing, or of turning into clannish proselytism— to that same 
extent, in the political order itself, our chief concern in the absence 
of an appropriate vehicle for a vitally Christian politics, should be 
to protect the inner germ of such a politics against everything that 
would risk altering it. 

“The more this germ remains fragile, hidden, and contested, the 
more intransigence and firmness are required to keep it pure. . . . 
From now on, in the most barren conditions, and with the awkward- 
ness of first beginnings, the signal has been given. Even though the 
invisible flame of the temporal mission of the Christian, of that 
Christian politics which the world has not yet known, should burn 
in some few hearts only, because the wood outside is too green, still 
the witness borne in this way would at least be maintained, the flame 
handed on. And amid the increasing horror of a world where justice, 
force, liberty, order, revolution, war, peace, work, and poverty have 
all been dishonored, where politics does its job only by corrupting the 
souls of the multitude with lies and by making them accomplices in 
the crimes of history, where the dignity of the human person is end- 
lessly flouted, the defense of this dignity and of justice, and the 
political primacy of those human and moral values which make up 
the core of our earthly common good, would continue to be affirmed, 
and a small ray of hope would continue to glimmer for mankind in a 
rehabilitation of love in the temporal order. The principle of the 
lesser evil is often, and rightly, invoked in politics. There is no greater 
evil in this field than to leave justice and charity without witness 
within the temporal order itself, and in regard to the temporal 
good.” 17 


It has been thirty years since this Lettre sur V Independence was 
written. Since then our confusion of mind, when it comes to 'Tight” 

17 Op. cit., pp. 45-53* 



and “left,” has only increased. In France, rightist extremism has been 
invaded by cruel frustrations and bitter resentments, owing as much 
to a nostalgic memory of the old Marshal as to the disappointments 
of the Algerian War, not to mention the unhealthy feeling of belong- 
ing to the vanquished who are seeking some kind of revenge. Leftist 
extremism has been invaded by a fever of demagogic excess and ag- 
gressive conformism, which protect themselves poorly against the 
great amount of illusion and the bit of meanness that gregarian 
Idealism carries inevitably with it— not to mention the unhealthy 
feeling that one belongs to the victors and everyone should be made 
to know it. 

None of this is very encouraging or enlightening. But the most 
serious thing is that the words “right” and “left” no longer have 
merely a political and social meaning; they have taken on above all — 
at least in the Christian world— a religious sense, resulting in the worst 
kind of jumble. How do we even find names for sociological forma- 
tions which catch our attention first of all because of a certain reli- 
gious attitude, but whose staunch background is a certain politico- 
social attitude, as if, by declaring a given religious position, one was 
necessarily announcing in the same breath a particular political posi- 
tion, and vice versa? Words such as “integralist” and “modernist” 
could not be employed, for they refer to religious behavior only. Nor 
could “conservative” and “progressive,” since they refer only to polit- 
ico-social behavior. We can get out of such a fix, if we try' to designate 
these two vast trends, whose intelligibility is so feebly established and 
includes such a confusion of aspects, only be constructing a kind of 
Ajrchtype to which we will give an allegorical or mythical name (here 
is a good case for this word). This will have the advantage of offend- 
ing nobody: consequently, as the prudent authors of certain mystery 
stories warn us, any resemblance to any person living or dead should 
be considered purely coincidental, and no one should feel he has 
been alluded to. To designate the Archtype of leftist extremism, then 
I will speak of the Sheep of Pannrge; and for the Archtype of rightist 
extremism, I will say the Ruminators of the Holy Alliance . 18 

Of course when it comes to real persons who seem to enter in any 
degree (there are an infinite number of degrees) into more or less 
close participation with either of these Archtypes, I hope I have for 

18 Sheep abo ruminate, I know, but over dreams of the future. 

2 6 


them the feelings that are appropriate between Christians (and even 
between simple human persons) and not merely the kind of charity 
one would have for a criminal or a dunce. I am quite ready to evince 
my esteem and brotherly respect for them, and I would be sincerely 
happy to unite my prayers to theirs, and to go with them to receive 
the Body of the Lord. All the same, if I happen to find myself in 
agreement on some point, either philosophical-theological, or politi- 
co-social, with either the Sheep of Panurge or the Ruminators of the 
Holy Alliance, I feel a serious uneasiness. And I don’t know which 
I detest more: to see a truth that is dear to me disregarded and 
abused by one party or the other, or to see it invoked and betrayed, by 
the one or the other. 

Such accidents are nevertheless inevitable. And we should note 
here the unhappy interlacing of values which causes the Sheep to 
cut such a wretched figure in philosophical or theological matters (in 
order to be 'with it” they are fideists, modernists, or anything you 
please), while in political and social questions their instinct prompts 
them to sound doctrine which they will more or less mess up. ld The 
opposite is true of the big Ruminators. I keep myself as far as I can 
from both camps, but it is quite natural (if hardly pleasing) that I 
feel myself less distant from the first when it is a question of things 
that are Caesar’s, and less distant from the second (alas!) when it is a 
question of the things that are God’s. 

We should recognize, moreover, that in its zeal neither camp gives 
first place to the service of pure truth. It is, above all, the alarms of 
Prudence that stir the Ruminators of the Holy Alliance: to bar the 
way to threatening dangers, to lock the doors, to build dikes. What 
stirs the Sheep of Panurge more than anything else is Deference to 
public opinion: to do as everyone does, at least as all those who are 
not fossils. 

By and large, the two extremisms whose Archtypes have just 
furnished me an excuse for some bad jokes, characterize but two 
minorities, although for the moment the Sheep are clearly more 
numerous than the big Ruminators, and can boast of a much vaster 
influence, especially among clerical professors. The great bulk of the 

19 “The Christian left in France has evangelical entrails, but the brain is weak 
in theology.” Claude Trcsmontant, “Tdches de la pensde chr 6 tienne ,” Esprit , July- 
August 1965, p. 120. 


2 7 

Christian people seem indifferent to the efforts of both these minor- 
ities. The people are troubled and unhappy because they feel that 
something great is in the offing and they do not know how to partici- 
pate. They are groping, and submissively lend themselves to attempts 
of groupings which are often disappointing. They conform willingly 
(not without nostalgia among some elderly lovers of beauty in the 
Church) to the use of the vernacular in religious ceremonies, but 
complain of the miserable translations which they are forced to recite, 
as well as of the disorder (temporary, no doubt) which accompanies 
liturgical innovations. They ask themselves at times whether their 
religion has been changed, and they will not easily be satisfied for long 
with vigil services, recordings, and cheap songs with which the initia- 
tives of certain curates have adorned the "community celebrations/' 
Above all, they suffer from a great and genuine thirst to which no 
one seems to pay any heed, and their good will in accepting the substi- 
tutes makes one foresee serious disillusionment. 

It is the truth they are seeking (indeed, yes), and the living sources. 
There is no shortage of guides, judging from the noise they make, and 
surely all of them have the best intentions. No doubt a few of them 
know the way. Let us hope that those who do can give us some 
inkling of what it is "to accept as a child the kingdom of God," with- 
out which, Jesus said, no one can enter it 20 — and it is certainly not a 
question of closing our eyes, for a child looks . We must at all costs 
know a little what it means to look at divine things with the eyes of a 
child, and in what school this is taught— and that God alone can teach 
us this. 

January 18 , 1966 

** “ Qujcuirume non acotperit re mum Dei tkui pu*r, non intrabit 
(Luke 18:17) 

in illud." 


The religious or “mystical” truth 
concerning the world 
in its relation with the kingdom of God 

I have often insisted (a long time ago in Freedom in the Modern 
World , 1 and True Humanism , 2 more recently in On the Philoso- 
phy of History 3 ) on the fundamental ambivalence of the world when 
considered in its relation to the kingdom of God. I will begin this 
chapter by looking at this ambivalence again. 

To do this, it is enough to refer to the assertions of the Gospel. 
These are essential assertions; if we forgot them, we would be mere 
shadows of Christians; because they give us not only what Jesus knew, 
but what he lived, in the very depths of his experience— what he 
lived in his life, what he lived in his death. 

All my readers are in the habit of reading the Gospel, I am sure. But 
it is not a bad idea to bring together all the texts which have to do 
with the world. 

If we wish to try to understand these texts, let us not forget, that 
Jesus and the apostles, when they speak to us of the world, consider it 
always in its relation— its simultaneous twofold relation— to the 
kingdom of God. On the one hand, insofar as the world accepts its 
final destiny to be taken up and transfigured into another world , a 
divine world, the kingdom of God which has already begun and will 
endure eternally; on the other hand, insofar as the world rejects the 

1 (N T ew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936); Du Regime temporel et de la 
liberte (Paris: Descl^e De Brouwer, 1933). 

2 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938),' Humanisme Integral (Paris: 
Aubier, 1936). 

8 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1957); Pout une Philosophic de 
VHistoire (Paris: ed. du Seuil, 1959). 



kingdom and falls back upon itself. What is then at stake (for it has 
to do with the mystery of salvation) is the religious or “mystical” 
truth concerning the world. 

I regret having to speak in a magisterial tone, which is not my man- 
ner, but it is a question of the Gospel. 


“God so loved the world that he gave it his only Son.” 4 

How could God not love the world which he himself made? He 
made it out of love. And see how it ruins itself, this world, with all its 
beauty, by reason of the freedom of the creature who is the image of 
God and who prefers himself to God and chooses nothingness. “That 
is why, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘You have not 
wanted either sacrifice or oblation, but you have prepared a body for 
me. . . / Then I said: T am coming to do your will, O God/ ” 5 * 

“For I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the 
world.” e 

“God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but 
for the world to be saved by him.” 7 

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 8 9 

He who never knew sin, he consented to be made sin 9 and to die 
on the cross, in order to deliver the world from sin. 

And at the very moment when this world, insofar as it refuses the 
kingdom, is judged— “now is the judgment of the world,” 10 (it itself 
judges itself) — at the moment when Jesus is going to be lifted up on 
the cross and to draw all things to him ; 11 on the very eve of his 
condemnation by the world and of his going to his Father , 12 and 
leaving his own who were in the world and whom he loved until the 

4 John 3:16. 

ztiebr. 10:5-7. 

* John 12:47. 

7 John 3:17. 

* John 1 129. 

9 2 Cor. 5:21. 

10 John 12:31. 

11 John 12:32. 

u Joha 14:28. 


end , 13 at the Last Supper, at that moment when — whereas he does 
not pray for the world (it is for the Church that he prays, “for those 
whom you have given me” 14 and “for those who will believe in me 
through their word” 15 ) he asks “that they may all be one, even as 
you, Father, in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us” 16 — 
he adds, “so that the world will believe that you sent me.” 17 How 
extraordinarily important the world is! Surely, since he came to save 

That world which did not know the Father , 18 what I do, Christ 
said, is in order that “it know that I love the Father and that I do as 
the Father has commanded me ”; 19 it is necessary “that the world 
know that you have sent me and that you have loved them 29 as you 
have loved me.” 21 

The world must know this, so that the world itself, or at least all 
in it who will not refuse to be saved, may be saved and enter into the 
kingdom of God and be transfigured there. And the world must also 
know this for its own condemnation, or at least for the condemna- 
tion of all in it that refuses to be saved and to turn toward mercy. 

“The Son of man came to seek, and to save what was perishing.” 22 
But he does not save us in spite of ourselves. He does not save what 
was perishing if what was perishing prefers to perish. 

Behind all this there is a very long history. 

The world was created good (which does not mean that it was 
created divine). It was created good, its natural structures are good 
in themselves: the Bible intends to get this into our heads once and 
for all. “God (Elohim) saw that the light was good.” 23 And in the 
same way, at the succeeding stages of creation, “God saw that it was 

18 John 13:1. 

14 John 17:9. 

15 John 17:20. 

1(5 John 17:21. 

17 Ibid. 

18 John 17:25. 

19 John 14:31. 

20 “Those whom you have given me”; and “those who will believe in me 
through their word.” John 17:9; 17:20. 

21 John 17:23. 

22 Lulce 19:10. 

28 Gen. 1:4. 


good" keeps returning like a refrain * 4 And on the sixth day, after man 
had been created, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, 
it was very good." 

And then evil made its appearance on the earth, with the 
disobedience of Man and Woman, deceived by the Evil Spirit. 
Finished, the earthly paradise, forever, for them and for all their 
posterity. (There are authors today who are discovering that original 
sin is an invention oFSk Aogustine; too bad they remember Genesis 
so poorly. I know very well they wifi say it is a myth, but this “myth,” 
whose truth is vouched for by God himself, comes at the head of the 
Bible, a pretty kmg time before St. Augustine. 2 ®) 

f4 G«». mo; 12; 18; 21; 25. 

** Gen. 1:31. 

54 It would be childish to believe that before passing under the regime of the 
Logos, human thought was entirety given over to the illusions of the imagination. 

Under what I called the twilight regime (cf. p. 16), not only did practical 
thought have a hold — in a way different from but as good as oar own— on the 
realities of daily life, the making and use of took, etc., but in the metapfeysico- 
religioos domain the toms, still wholly immersed ra the concrete and swarming 
with images, in which human thought then expressed itself could be adequate to 
what is, although in an essentially veiled manner. 

Yes, they were myths. But in our day this term has been made dangerously 
equivocal, even with pegard to primitive thought. (This is because of the sys- 
tematic and mistaken use which our phenomenologists make of it in regard to 
everything which, in our own thought, does not pertain to scientific observation 
or psychological experience.) The myths of primitive thought were not all without 
value as wisdom, a more profound wisdom, I readily believe, than some of our 
metaphysical systems. There were myths which were not fairy tales, myths which 
were true, that k, myths that spoke the truth (Just as under the regime of the 
Logos there are “fa, be” and “true” propositions). Even in the domain of “science,'* 
one can *ay that the network of lines which Chinese acupuncture imagines as 
connecting together all parts of the human body k a practical “myth” which 
teaches us nothing about anatomical structures but is “true” when it comes to 
where it is proper to insert the needle. 

1 have been aware of these things for a long time — without nevertheless being 
ui agreement, far from it, with the problematic and the generalizations ( incurably 
equivocal whatever he can do) of an author like Jean -Marie Paupert, whose good 
will deserves respect and sympathy but whose views on theology, as exemplified in 
hi* recent book, Peut- cm Hit chretmn aufoimfhui, seem to me to be rather 

Fpoui the viewpoint I have just indicated concerning the two great historical 
regimes of human thooeht, it appears that (a unique oase in the Bible, because 
rcvehticre has here used dements coming down from the earliest times and re- 
asiToncd m a ptopbetic Hght focused on the past) the history of Adam and Eve 
is a trodi, a sacral truth veiled m its mode of expression, which hands over to tis 
what * most important, absolutely important for us to know about our origins: the 

3 2 


Henceforth evil is in the world, this world whose ontological struc- 
tures are and remain good— we know that malum est in bono sicut in 
subjecto 27 — and which, however wounded, continues (not without 
losses) its movement toward the temporal goals to which its nature 
tends and for whose realization we have a duty to co-operate. Evil is 
in the world, and ferments there everywhere, sows deception every- 
where, separating man from God. And while history advances and ages 
of civilization succeed one another, the true God remains unknown or 
badly known — except for one small nation, a chosen Vine sprung from 
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And men would be lost to eternal life if 
all who do not flee from a grace whose name they do not know were 
not saved by the Blood of Christ to come. And when he comes, the 
spiritual Power, the Doctors and Priests of the chosen people, crying 
out that they have no other king but Caesar, will condemn as a blas- 
phemer the One who is the Truth in person. And they will deliver 
him up to an earthly Power for which truth is only a word; and acting 
in concert, spiritual Power gone astray and earthly Power will put him 
to death. That is the other face of the world in its relation to the 
kingdom of God. 


“The world cannot hate you (who do not believe in me); but me,” 
Jesus said, “it hates me because I testify of it that its works are 
evil .” 28 As for the disciples, the world will treat them as it treated 
their master: "You will be hated by all for my name's sake." 29 In his 
last farewell, Jesus will again repeat to them: “If the world hates you r 

Event (the fall) which, as a result of a free act, a sin of Man and Woman placed 
at their creation in a supernatural state of innocence or harmony with God, 
brought mankind to pass into a state of rupture with God — which nature of itself 
is incapable of retrieving — whereby each man is bom deprived of grace. Here, 
expressed in the language appropriate to the regime of the Logos, is the truth 
which the Church, faithful to the revelation with which she has been entrusted, 
and in the prophetic light of which I have just spoken, discerns in the so-called 
“myth” (but true under veils) of the mysterious forbidden fruit which Man, at 
the instigation of Woman, has eaten. 

27 Sum. theol , I, 48, 3. 

28 John 7:7. 

29 Matt. 10:22. 



know that it has hated me before it hated you. If yon were of the 
world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the 
world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates 
you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater 
than his master/ If they persecuted me , they will persecute you 
too." *• 

And similarly, at the Last Supper, in his prayer for them: 'The 
world has hated thfcm because they are not of the world, even as I am 
not of the world. I do not pray that you should keep them out of the 
world, but that you should keep them from the Evil One. They are 
not of the world , even as I am not of the world /' 31 And again, at the 
Last Supper, he announces that the Paraclete, "when he will come, 
will bring accusation against the world by reason of the sin and of the 
justice and of the judgment." By reason of the sin, because of the un- 
belief of the world ("because they do not believe in me"); by reason 
of the justice, because the world has rejected the Just One ("I go to 
the Father, and you will see me no more"); by reason of the judg- 
ment, "because the prince of this world is already judged." 32 

It is Jesus who calls by this name the Angel of Darkness; "I will no 
longer talk much with you, for the prince of this world is coming,, 
venit princeps hujus mundi ." 33 On Palm Sunday, when he was 
foretelling his Passion, and a voice from heaven was heard, "Now," he 
bad said, "is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this 
world be cast out," 34 — in other terms, is going to be dispossessed: 
dispossessed prince, and that much more anxious for his revenge, 
he will continue to prowl about us "like a roaring lion, seeking some- 
one to devour ," 38 as the liturgy describes him to us every evening in 
the lectio brevis of Compline. He will continue to infest innocent 
material creatures 3 * on whose behalf the Church lavishes her exor- 
cisms— and to try to make in the heads of intellectuals the nicest pos- 
sible mess— be will continue until the Passion has borne all its fruits. 

** John 15:18-20. 

51 John 17:14-16. 

12 ohn 16:8-11. 

M John 14:20. 

** John 12:31. 

** I Pet*r 5:8. 

16 “He infests innocent fotratains, bilk, woods, he lurks in the tempest/’ Riissa 
Maritain, Ia Prtnc* dc ce monde (2nd ed. Paris: Descl6e Dc Brouwer, 1963), 
pp. 12-13. 



until the end of the world: he will let loose the world only when the 
world is ended. 87 (Good lord, I know very well that to a perspectivist 
the devil is a mythical survival, but I for one believe in him.) This is 
why St. Paul (something of a backward thinker himself), in warning 
us that it is not flesh and blood that we have to contend with, but 
evil spirits, calls them “the world despots of this present darkness/" 


Thus, the world appears as the Antagonist, from which the great 
refusal comes. “The world was made by him, and the world did not 
know him. He came to his own home and his own people did not 
receive him” 39 

The world lies in the power of evil: “the whole world is in the 
power of the Evil One ."" 40 “Woe to the world, because of the scan- 
dals/" 41 “The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth . . . because 
it neither sees him nor knows him."" 42 

And the world will be condemned. St. Paul asks the Corinthians 
to examine themselves “so that we may not be condemned along with 
the world” 43 And Christ has vanquished the world. “In the world 
you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have vanquished the 
world.” 44 

Like Christ, the Church is of God, not of the world. And we have 
to choose to be friends of the world or friends of God. Because the 
world is not only created nature as God made it, but this very nature 
insofar as crowned with the triple diadem of the evil desires of human 
Liberty— Pride at being supremely self-sufficient; Intoxication with 
knowledge, not for the sake of truth but for power and possession; 
Intoxication in being overcome and tom by pleasure. “Do not love 
the world or the things in the world."" 45 “If anyone loves the world, 
the love (dy airq) of the Father is not in him. For all that seduces 

37 Sum. theol. y I, 64, 4. 

33 Eph. 6:12. 

39 John 10:11. 

40 John 5:19. 

41 Matt. 18:7. 

42 John 14:17. 

43 1 Cor. 11:32. 

44 John 16:33. 

45 “jxr) 8 e ra lv r<? Koatuo” A formula too abbreviated to be translated literally. 
"‘Nor what is in the world” forces the sense, by centering the thought on a word 
which is not in the Greek text 



in the world 46 — the Lust of the flesh, the Lust of the eyes, nnd the 
Pride of life— is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world 
will pass away, and the lust of it.” 47 

“Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world is 
enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the 
world makes himself an enemy of God.” 48 

Adulterers, you say we are? Ah, that's pretty rude indeed. James 
and John, you poor backward apostles, what kind of a story have you 
got there? Calling us such a name, we who are emerging at last from 
all the old complexes, and who are taught by our new doctors, with 
sacred fervor, that there is nothing more beautiful or more urgent 
than to be friends of the world, this beloved world that is evolving so 
superbly toward final Deliverance, thanks to the Christian removal of 
the cross? Or could there have been a peculiar misunderstanding 
somewhere? What is called the “post-conciliar situation” of the 
Catholic faithful (better to say the situation following upon the 
crisis, still acute, which made the restatements of the Council neces- 
sary) is certainly a curious thing. 



For the moment, I would simply like to stick to the gist of all the 
New Testament texts I have been citing. As I said in True Humanism 
(well, I did meditate on the matter for a long time), the world is the 
domain at once of man, of God, and of the devil. Thus appears the 
essential ambiguity of the world and of its history; it is a field corn- 
own to the three. The world is a closed field which belongs to God 
by right of creation; to the devil by right of conquest, because of sin; 
to Christ by right of victory over the conqueror, because of the Pas- 
sion. The task of the Christian in the world is to contend with the 
devil his domain, to wrest it from him; he must strive to this end, he 
will succeed in it only in part as long as time will endure. The world is 

4 ® ‘Srav to & t» icoafjuj)” What was said in the preceding note applies equally 

47 I fohn 2:15-17. 

4 & farms 4.4 


saved, yes, it is delivered in hope, it is on the march toward the king- 
dom of God definitely revealed; but it is not holy , it is the Church 
which is holy; it is on the march toward the kingdom of God, and 
this is why it is a treason toward this kingdom not to seek with all 
one’s forces— in a manner adapted to the conditions of earthly history, 
but as effective as possible, quantum potes , tantum aude—a realiza- 
tion or, more exactly, a refraction in the world of the Gospel exigen- 
cies; nevertheless this realization, even though relative, will always be 
in one manner or another deficient and disputed in the world. And at 
the same time that the history of the world is on the march— it is the 
growth of the wheat— toward the kingdom of God, it is also on 
the march— it is the growth of the tares, inextricably mingled with the 
wheat— toward the kingdom of reprobation. 

The Gospel texts we have called to mind amount to saying that the 
world is sanctified insofar as it is not only the world but is assumed 
into the universe of the Incarnation; and that it is reprobate insofar 
as it shuts itself up in itself, insofar, in the words of Claudel, as it 
shuts itself up in the essential difference, and as it remains only the 
world, separated from the universe of the Incarnation. 

Whereas the history of the Church, which is, as Pascal says, the his- 
tory of the truth, leads as such toward the kingdom of God defini- 
tively revealed and has no other end than that kingdom— on the 
contrary, divided between two opposing ultimate ends, the history of 
the temporal city leads at one and the same time toward the kingdom 
of perdition and toward the kingdom of God 49 — as toward the terms 
that are beyond its own natural ends. 

I am not forgetting that the world has a relatively final end, which 
is its natural end. This natural end is not a goal attained once and for 
all; in the language of Leibniz , 50 it is an unending path through con- 
quests, and which has no term, and over whose entire length mankind 
is laboring to overcome fatality and reveal itself to itself. Nor do I for- 
get that in the natural order the world has an opposite “end” (in the 
sense of a final occurrence)— namely the losses and waste resulting 
from|he growth of evil (not as great, in the last analysis, but a pretty 

49 From a new translation by Joseph Evans of True Humanism, still in manu- 
script (French ed., pp. 114-116). 

50 He said of beatitude, "it is a path through pleasures/' 



nuisance for all that) in the course of history. There we have— in a 
purely philosophical perspective— a sort of historical hell (a faint 
image of the real hell) from which the world and the history of the 
world can only be delivered if this world , regenerated from top to 
bottom, finds itself changed into a totally new universe: the new 
heaven and the new earth of Christian eschatology, according to 
which the absolutely ^Inal end of history is beyond history. In other 
words, there will be a discontinuity between history, which exists in 
time, and the final state of humanity, which will take place in a trans- 
figured world. 

But let us leave this parenthesis. As I indicated at the beginning of 
this chapter, the Gospel does not consider the world merely in itself, 
in its natural structures and its historical development, its various 
political, economic or social regimes, its ages of culture, or with re- 
spect to the natural end which I have just mentioned. The Gospel 
considers the world in its concrete and existential connections with 
the kingdom of God, already present in our midst. This kingdom is 
the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, at once visible in those who 
bear the mark of Christ and invisible in those who, without bearing 
the mark of Christ, share in his grace— but it will be definitively 
revealed only after the resurrection of the flesh. The world cannot be 
neutral with respect to the kingdom of God. Either it is vivified by it, 
or it struggles against it. If God so loved the w r orld that he gave it his 
only begotten Son, it was to plant 51 and foster in it another world 
where all the desires of nature would be finally more than fulfilled. If 
Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it, if the Lamb of 
God takes away the sins of the world, this means that the kingdom of 
God, which is not of the world, is itself growing in the world, and that 
the life of grace performs in it its mysterious work; in such a way that 
at the final end, when the world is manifestly and definitively saved, it 
will no longer be this world y but will, at a stroke, have been trans- 
muted into the other world , the universe of the Incarnation, which 
shall have reached its state of complete accomplishment; the unim- 
aginable world of glory that has existed from the beginning for the 
holy Angels and the souls of the blessed, and where the bodies of 

51 From the moment of Adam's repentance — in anticipation of the merits of 


Jesus and Mary are already present; and where, having been brought 
to participate in the condition of spirit, its privileges and its freedom, 
matter will be gentle and more fertile in beauty, the senses more 
penetrating and awed than ever. 

The “Ontosophic ” 52 Truth 


The Gospel has a deep respect for created things, it loves the 
beauty of the lilies of the field that are clothed more gloriously than 
King Solomon , 53 and the birds of the air that have no granaries and 
are fed by the Father , 64 and the little sparrows that are worth no- 
thing, not one of which falls to the ground without God’s having per- 
mitted it . 55 It understands how dearly a man values every sheep of 
his flock , 56 and is alive to all that charms the heart in a child’s glance. 
In the Gospel you cannot find the slightest trace of contempt for 
anything created. Manicheism is an offense against the Father; the 
logic of gnostic sects impregnated with this spirit demands that, all 
things considered, God the Creator be regarded as an evil God. The 
Catholic faith has always had a honor of them, in its view that 
Catharians are the worst of blasphemers. They blaspheme God, for- 
getting that the work of the six days was good and very good. And 
they blaspheme reason, too. 

The man whom St. Thomas called “the Philosopher”— that deplor- 
able Westerner who came to us from the Near East by way of Mai- 
monides and the Arabs— Aristotle knew that all that is, is good in the 
very degree in which it is, and that being and good are convertible 

52 I would like to apologize for this neologism. I had to use it for two reasons. 
On the one hand, the truth it refers to is both philosophical and theological ; on 
the other, this truth is not merely ontological , it is concerned with the moral 
domain as well, since the essential inclinations of nature and its proper ends are 
good not only in an ontological sense, but equally in an ethical or moral sense. 

58 Matt. 6:29. 

64 Matt. 6:26. 

55 Luke 12:6. 

58 Luke 15:6. 



terms, ens et bonum convertuntur : nothing stronger could be said. 
Hence St. Thomas's statement: to exist is the act par excellence. Evil 
is a “privation"— the absence of a good that should be there— evil is 
not a being. It is true that life on earth inevitably involves suffering, as 
a result of our fleshly condition, and also as a price paid to proceed to 
loftier degrees of being (or, more precisely, of life). But as to moral 
evil, it originates in the free will (a most high privilege in itself) of 
created spirits. Catholic theology has always held firmly to these prin- 
ciples. Nature taken in itself is good and tends to ends that are good. 
The same thing applies to the world— that is, in a very general sense, 
to the whole of created things, and, in a more restricted sense, to the 
material and visible universe; and, in the even more restricted sense 
which concerns us here, to our human universe, the universe of man, 
of culture and history in their development here below. 

The “ontosophic” truth at stake when it is a question of the world 
taken in itself, is that, in spite of the evil that is present in it— some- 
times so great as to be intolerable not only to man's sensibility but 
to his very mind— the good, all things considered, is there, much 
greater, deeper and more fundamental. The world is good in its 
structures and in its natural ends. As stagnant, even as regressive as 
the world can seem at certain times and in certain places of the earth, 
its historic development, seen in its entirety, advances toward better 
and more elevated states. In spite of everything, we ought to have 
confidence in the world because, if evil grows in it along with good 
(and in what a way!— one would have to be one of the new Pharisees 
intoxicated by the three “ cosmological ," not theological, virtues not 
to see that) there is, nevertheless, in the world a greater growth of 

The Christian has (I will come back to it in a moment) a temporal 
mission with respect to the world and human progress. When St. 
James tells us not to be friends of the world, he is by no means turn- 
ing us away from this temporal mission! This mission itself implies 
that we are not friends of the world in the sense in which the apostle 
understands this expression, since the temporal mission of the Chris- 
tian is to be ready to give his life to instill in the world something of 
this Gospd, this kingdom of God, and this Jesus whom the world 
hates and whose spur it so badly needs. When St. John commands us 
not to love either the world or the things of the world, he has no in- 

4 o 


tention of forbidding us to love everything good and worthy of love 
in the world; it is friendship with the world insofar as it is the enemy 
of the Gospel and of Jesus that he has in view. If all the Gospel texts 
which I recalled earlier (in the section, “The World Hates Me”) put 
us on guard against the world so urgently and severely and with such 
unimpeachable authority, it is by no means insofar as the world and 
its history pursue their natural ends, but insofar as the world, taken 
in its relationship (only too real!— to forget it is to deny Jesus) of 
enmity toward Jesus and the kingdom of God, is the great Antago- 
nist from which the great refusal comes. 


I spoke just now of the natural end of the world. I would like to 
clarify this briefly. The absolutely final end, the supreme end of the 
world is supra-mundane and supra-temporal, it belongs to the super- 
natural order. But the world has also a natural end ( relatively final, or 
final in a given order) . This end, in my opinion, is three-fold. 

In its first aspect, the natural end of the history of the world is 
the mastery of nature by man, and the conquest of human autonomy. 
One reads in Genesis , 67 “God blessed them, and God said to them: 
'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; have do- 
minion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over 
every living thing that moves upon the earth/ ” These words imply 
mastery of nature: subdue the earth , and they cover the loftiest am- 
bitions of human science. Here we have something temporal and 
earthly, and it is a goal, a genuine destination for the world. The 
philosopher can express the same idea in other ways if he reflects on 
the nature of man in his capacity as a reasoning agent immersed in 
animality. He can s#y that this goal is the conquest which man must 
achieve of his own autonomy; as an earthly being who harbors within 
himself an immortal spirit he has a natural tendency to liberate him- 
self progressively from the control exercised over him by the physical 
world. At the same time it is required of him to set the human per- 
son and the different human groups (races, classes, nations) free from 

57 Gen. 1:28. 


servitude or subjection to other men, and from that violence by 
which one man imposes his power on another by treating him as a 
mere instrument. 

A second aspect of the natural end of the world is the development 
of the multiple immanent (self-perfecting) or spiritual activities of 
the human being, especially the development of knowledge, in all its 
different degrees. (I ayn speajdng, of course, of authentic knowledge, 
immunized againsf the envy which tempts us today to sacrifice wis- 
dom to science.) This development also includes the creative activity 
of art. (Even in moments when beauty derives no benefit from it* 
this activity at least implies a progress in self-awareness.) And in 
the realm of moral activity, it means progress in the knowledge of the 
natural law', the most unchallengeable example of progress in the 
history of mankind. 

Finally, we can point to a third aspect of the natural end of the 
world— the manifestation of all the potentialities of human nature. 
This, too, flows from the fact that man is not a pure spirit, but a 
spirit united to matter. It is normal for a spirit to manifest itself. One 
could cite here a phrase of the Gospel: "Nothing is hidden which 
shall not be unveiled/' 59 


Since my old habits have got the better of me, and since I have be- 
gun, God forgive me, to make didactic statements, I might just as 
well slip in a few words about the temporal mission of the Christian 
to which I alluded earlier. 

The need for this mission appears much clearer today than for- 

M Mitt. 10:26. Also Lake 8:17. Cf. On the Philosophy of History, p. 125. In 
this connection, we added that the very shamelessness of contemporary literature, 
despite it* often impure motivations (but it h redeemed by some autobiographical 
confession* of incomparable nobility), responds in its deep sources to a secret 
necessity and poatesscs ‘‘a kind of eschatological meaning.” In many other ways, 
moreover, history has progressively, for centuries, testified to the impulse of which 
I am speaking,, to mate manifest w hat is in man. 

The reflection* proposed here on the natural end of the world, and those that 
follow oti the. temporal mission of the Christian, will be completed in a section of 
Ch. 7 (A digression on the temporal mission of the Christian). 

4 2 


merly. Under the sacral regime of medieval Christianity, and later, 
under the increasingly degraded and illusory vestiges and remnants of 
this regime in process of dissolution, it was principally through the 
social structures, at least in the order of visible activities (I am speak- 
ing here only of the latter) that the impact of Christianity was felt, 
and, even in the period of sharpest challenge, continued (more and 
more powerlessly after the “age of Enlightenment” ) to be felt in 
Western civilization. 

What, in those times, was asked of the faithful was to give an ex- 
ample of the Christian virtues in their private life (they very often 
did so in an admirable manner, which helped the venerable tottering 
structure to remain standing) and, to the degree that they were able 
to influence public opinion or political events, to uphold the rights 
and claims of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

But today all that has changed. The temporal world has succeeded 
in casting out every trace of the sacral regime. At the same time, 
civilization, passing under the control of science and technology, has 
unmistakably outgrown the boundaries of the Western world, and is 
in the process of becoming truly universal. 

Christianity, then, can no longer count on the aid and protection 
of social structures. On the contrary, it is up to it to aid and protect 
these structures by striving to impregnate them with its spirit. Man’s 
duties towards his Creator have a social as well as a personal dimen- 
sion, and demand, in particular, that every religiously divided politi- 
cal society should recognize the various religious traditions at work 
among its citizens. 5 ** The spiritual and the temporal are perfectly dis- 
tinct, but they can and should cooperate in mutual freedom. 

Not only the West, but the entire world, with its vast non-Chris- 
tian cultural areas, requires, within the temporal domain and on 
behalf of the progress of temporal civilization, the stimulus and eleva- 
tion which Christianity naturally brings to the activities of nature in 
their own sphere. 

This means that the age we are entering obliges the Christian to 
become aware of the temporal mission which he has with respect to 
the world and which is like an expansion of his spiritual vocation in the 

59 Cf. Man and the State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), pp. 



kingdom of God and with respect to it. Woe to the world if the 
Christian were to isolate and separate his temporal mission (then it 
would be wind only) from his spiritual vocation! The fact remains 
that this temporal mission requires him to enter as deeply as possible 
into the agonies, the conflicts, and the earthly problems, social or po- 
litical, of his age, and not hesitate to “get his feet wet.” 

I have said much, in other books, about the temporal mission of 
the Christian. It is clear that m speaking of this mission, I am think- 
ing, above all, of lay Christians. That some of the clergy should be- 
come personally involved in secular affairs is quite possible, but hardly 
a requirement of their function. And it happens, when they are not a 
Richelieu or a Mazarin, that they handle such affairs less skillfully and 
more naively than the laity .® 0 As for the latter, they can, if they like, 
indulge in a sort of innocent and rather infantile Christian anticleri- 
calism (it is always tempting to make fun of les cures , because at 
bottom one really likes them and expects a good deal from them) but 
they would turn out to be worse than the worst cures if they con- 
ducted their social and political activities like arrogant dreamers, 
nourished on a false philosphy that divinizes the world, and bent on 
sacrificing everything to efficacy , a passing efficacy. 

To be precise, it is not enough to say that the temporal mission of 
the Christian is, of itself, the concern of the laity. We must also say 
that it is not the business of all lay Christians (far from it!), but only 
of those who, by reason of their gifts and natural inclinations, as well 
as due to circumstances, feel for it what we can term (the phrase is 
rather shopworn, but it is all I have handy) “a calling .” 

Finally, we must add that this calling is not enough; a solid interior 
preparation is also required. (If, by some misfortune, I chance to feel 
“a calling” to touch on this subject, it will be in another chapter.) 

60 Let no one see here any kind of allusion to the organizations of Catholic 
Action. These organizations by means of which the kity participate in the 
apoetolate of the Church, have by definition a spiritual purpose, not a temporal 
one. Accordingly, they have nothing to do with what I am saying here. I think 
that it falls to them to bring together only a relatively minor segment of the 
Christian laity (which would, accordingly, be withdrawn to some degree from 
temporal tasks) but I «n persuaded that they are quite necessary. (Cf. Carnet de 
Notes, pp. 140-41.) On the kity, its spiritual vocation and its temporal mission, 
tee Cb. 7 ( Another digression on the condition of the layman ). 



A Long Misunderstanding with Bitter Fruit 


To introduce the third part of this chapter, I must, again taking up 
for a moment my old trade of professor, begin with some preliminary 
remarks on the difference in approach and vocabulary between specu- 
lative knowledge and practical knowledge (that of the moralists and 
spiritual writers). Before becoming a peasant of the Garonne I in- 
sisted on this difference at some length in The Degrees of Knowl- 
edge . On the one hand, what is considered is the ontological structure 
of things; on the other, the manner in which the acting subject should 
conduct himself in their midst and face to face with them. 

The real does not appear in the same light in both cases. The theo- 
logian declares that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it; the 
saint declares that grace requires us to make nature die to itself. They 
are both telling the truth. But it would be a shame to reverse their 
languages by making use in the speculative order of formulas which 
are true for the practical order, and vice versa. 

Let us think of the “contempt for creatures” professed by the 
saints. The saint has a right to despise created things (while loving 
them); the philosopher and the theologian (who, as such, have the 
duty of knowing, not loving) do not have this right; for the word con- 
tempt does not have the same meaning in both cases. For the philoso- 
pher and the theologian it would mean: creatures are worth nothing 
in themselves; for the saint: they are worth nothing for me. And one 
need not be a St. John of the Cross, it is enough to be a poet to say 

Je suis mourant d! avoir compris 
Que notre terre riest d f aucun prix. 61 

The saint sees in practice that creatures are nothing in comparison 
with the One to whom he has given his heart and of the End he has 
chosen. This is a lover s contempt for all that is not Love itself. To 

C1 Max Jacob. 



him, it is nothing to give up “all the wealth of his house” 62 for God. 
“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as 
a dung hill, in order that I may gain Christ,” St. Paul said, . . that 
I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in 
his sufferings.” 68 

And by a marvelous reflux, the more he despises creatures as rivals 
of God, as objects of a possible option against God, the more he 
cherishes them in and ^0k Him whom he loves, as loved by him and 
made truly good and worthy of being loved by the love which creates 
and infuses goodness in all things . 64 For to love a being in God and 
for God is not to treat it simply as a means or mere occasion to love 
God, which would amount to dispensing oneself from loving it (and 
at the same time ceasing truly to love God, who is truly loved only 
when we love his visible images, too) : it is to love this being and con- 
sider it as an end, to desire its good because it deserves to be loved in 
itself and for itself, this very merit and dignity flowing from the sov- 
erign Love and sovereign Lovableness of God. They are thus founded 
in God and, at the same time, placed beyond all quarrels and vicissi- 
tudes. Not to stop short at the creature— that is the guarantee that the 
creature will be loved unfailingly, transfixed in the root of its lovable- 
ness by the arrow which pierces it. In this way the paradox becomes 
comprehensible: that is the end the saint embraces in a universal love 
of friendship and piety— a love incomparably more free, but also more 
tender and happier than the love of concupiscence of the voluptuary 
or the miser— everything that passes in time and all the weakness and 
all the beauty of things, everything he has given up . 65 

We would be completely mistaken, as I noted earlier, if we were to 
give a speculative sense to the formulas of a John of the Cross. “There 
is no worse philosophy than a philosophy that despises nature. A 
knowledge that despises what is, is itself nothing; a cherry between 
the teeth holds within it more mystery than the whole of idealistic 
metaphysics.” #c 

ca Cant. 8:7. 

M Phil. 3:8-10. 

u “Amor Dei est infimdans et cream bonitatem m rebus.” (St. Thomas, Sum. 
theol.y I, 20, 2.) 

OF. The Degrees of Knowledge (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 
P* 335 - 


4 * 



Well, for most of the faithful and even for the cleric, who have no 
access to the modest empyrean, at once temple of wisdom and in- 
sane asylum where philosophers and theologians are closeted, it is dif- 
ficult to refrain from what I would call a speculative distortion and 
misappropriation of the maxims of the saints (by involuntarily depriv- 
ing them of their real meaning). The process has taken a great 
amount of time, but the fact is that at a given moment they became 
the innocent authors, and victims, of such a misappropriation. 

To make a long story short (please excuse my oversimplification), 
let me say that for centuries (what pedagogy there was was a little 
rude: in order to discourage pupils from frequenting bad places, they 
were told that the whole town was a death-trap), Christian homiletic 
teaching was busy convincing men (who naturally love created things, 
but not in the way saints do) that created things are worthless. The 
trouble was that by dint of repeating this commonplace, the ascetic 
writers and the preachers wound up extending St. Paul's “dung hill" 
to the whole of creation, no doubt in as much as it might tempt the 
human being, but also, finally, and without being aware of the dis- 
tortion, even when the creation was taken in itself. Simply through a 
phenomenon of inattention, a masked manicheism was thus superim- 
posed on the Christian faith, though without ruining it. (If one had 
known what one was doing, what a beautiful contradiction— and for 
the delight of our present-day Hegelians, what a fine dialectic! But no, 
one was simple trapped by a formula which, in pitch-darkness, had 
slipped from one meaning to another.) Hence the creature was in it- 
self a dung hill; the world was in itself nothing but corruption. Origi- 
nal sin had rotted everything in nature. A Catholic would certainly 
not have advanced such a proposition. But it often underlay in a more 
or less unconscious way his idea of fallen nature. This view was an 
effect of that confusion of levels that I have just been describing. (It 
was also, perhaps, an effect of certain infiltrations of Protestant con- 
ceptions, and certainly of Jansenist influences which wore so deep in 
France, and of which I have not spoken in order not to take too 



It is worth noting that by the same stroke the formulas of the prac- 
tical register itself were being progressively vitiated, all the while 
being infiltrated simultaneously by unconscious pelagianism and man- 
icheism. It was up to man and the human will to make the first move, 
and to do nothing (through fear of hell, we may presume) forbidden 
by and displeasing to God. Then God would reward him. And 
whereas St. Paul and ajl saints .(for whom the world in itself was not 
evil, but rather, if anything, too good) despised the world only by 
virtue of boundless love for the One who loved us first, and in com- 
parison with him, in order to share in the sufferings and the work of 
Jesus — “nothing, nothing, nothing, even to giving one's skin and 
everything else for Christ,” ® 7 — the adulterated Christianity I have 
been describing, on the contrary, left the divine agape in a sacred 
shadow; and in any case, it was not in comparison with God that the 
world, in its eyes, was worth nothing: it was worth nothing in itself . 
Henceforth the practical formulas which it dispensed became mainly 
prohibitive, and caused the values of negation, refusal and fear to be 
in the forefront — as well as setting oneself to regard created things as 
enemies, and to stay away from them. Lower the eyes, turn away the 
head! Flee from dangerous contacts! The moral took precedence over 
the theological; the flight from sin over charity and the union of char- 
ity. This description has no bearing whatsoever on the real life of the 
Church as it was actually carried on in the depths of her being; it has 
to do with that version of Christianity that reigned in the mind and 
afflicted the mores of the great mass, more or less badly instructed, 
of the people of God. 

Besides, as a matter of fact, the process which I have pointed out 
did not (not yet) in ancient times cause such serious havoc. One lived 
in Christendom. One had the cult of the saints who always came to 
the rescue. Jn spite of everything, one felt oneself warmed in the 
bosom of the Church, and the theological still kept many means of 
asserting its supremacy. On the other hand, people were in general 
red-blooded enough and led a healthy enough life not to capsize in 
psychological troubles, and to maintain their equilibrium, all the while 
appreciating only too well this world of which one spoke so ill. They 
were in the custom of endowing masses, as often as they could, in or- 
der not to remain too long in purgatory, and in the meantime, they 
St. John of the Cross (to Ana dc Pefialoara). 


busied themselves vigorously with their happiness in this world, 
counting, not unreasonably, on the power of a firm and problemless 
faith and on God's generosity to have their skin saved at the last mo- 
ment. In short, the practical manicheism and pelagianism which I 
have mentioned remained external parasites, like the lice on the head 
of St. Benedict Labre. They were not viruses attacking the substance 
of the Christian faith, and by the same stroke producing in it malig- 
nant reactions; for, as I have said at the beginning, this faith is allergic 
to any trace of manicheism. 

It was in the nineteenth century, and still more in the first half of \ 
the twentieth, that everything took a decided turn for the worse. Then I 
the virus penetrated into the substance. At the same time, the uncon- 
scious work which had for so long been carried on in secret took visi- 
ble form. Men began to suffer seriously, at times cruelly, from a sort of 
invasion of practical manicheism, which chiefly affected educational 
procedures and piety, but had a much more general bearing and sig- 
nificance, and imposed a completely negativist attitude toward the 
world— with all the more aggressiveness as the world itself was making 
its claims and promises heard on all sides. From that moment, for a 
good many interior souls, the current vocabulary, with its reprobation 
of nature and the world, which was hitherto accepted as a matter of 
course in this particular rhetoric, grew increasingly difficult to bear, 
even when found in books as invaluable as The Imitation of Christ 
(as a result, the field of spiritual reading would one day turn out to 
be strangely restricted). Other souls rebelled. The mass of people felt 
that a grave injustice, against which they were defenseless, was com- 
mitted with respect to the world, as well as with respect to them- 
selves, and was of a nature to lead to disaster. 

The kind of invasion of practical manicheism, whose effects were 
felt in this way, did not present itself as a doctrinal error formulated 
by the intellect and pronounced externally. No, it was spread in- 
wardly, in the form of purely moralistic prohibitions, injunctions to 
flight, habits of fear, disciplines of denial in which love had no part, 
and which led the soul to starvation and sickliness, and to a torturing 
sense of impotence. 

I stress this manichean-like aberration at this point, because it is 
part of the subject of the present chapter (the meaning of the world 



and the attitude of the Christian toward it), and is the poisonous 
fruit of that long misunderstanding I have been discussing in this 
section. I should add that this aberration took place in an unfortunate 
context which helped sensitize minds to it and, by that very fact, 
made its effects more damaging. 

The hostility of a civilization in which Christianity— and especially 
such a disfigured Christianity — was called to question on all sides, and 
where science was held to be the enemy of religion; the weakening 
of natural defenses due to modern psychasthenia which was already 
so well kept going by psychiatrists, and the weakening of intellectual 
defenses due to a teaching extremely poor in matters of doctrine; 
the modernist crisis, with its first epidemic of itching ears and 
piously intended errors; and in the indispensable struggle against these 
errors, the almost exclusive recourse to disciplinary measures; the 
spiritual impoverishment of a Christian laity, who continued in gen- 
eral to imagine that the call to the perfection of charity, with what it 
implies of life of prayer and, as much as possible, of contemplative 
recollection, was the exclusive concern of the monks; the confusion 
and coalescence, which had been accepted as natural for two cen- 
turies, between the interests of religion and those of a social class 
furiously attached to its privileges , 68 in some members of which one 
saw noble virtues and religious customs, but among others, and more 
often, a comfortable practical atheism— all this is the context in which 
the rise of masked manicheism I have been discussing took place until 
the first third of the present century. All this was going to build up, 
in the unconscious of a great many Christians, clerics and laymen, an 
enormous weight of frustration, disillusionment, repressed doubts, 
resentment, bitterness, healthy desires sacrificed, with all the anxieties 
and pent-up aspirations of the unhappy conscience. 

Comes the aggiornamento. Why be astonished that at the very an- 
nouncement of a Council, then in the surroundings of it, and now 
after it, the enormous unconscious weight which I have just men- 
tioned burst into the open in a kind of explosion that does no honor 
to the human intelligence? Tlius, the Council appears as an island 

88 The date of the founding of die review Efprit in France (1932), and of the 
Catholic Worker, at nearly the same period in the United States, can be regarded 
as marling, at least symbolically, the point of rupture which announced the end 
of this confusion. 


guarded by the Spirit of God in the middle of an qcean which is over- 
turning everything, the true and the false, pell-mell. 

As far as the attitude of the Christian to the world is concerned, 
the pendulum was suddenly carried to the opposite extreme from the 
quasi-manichean contempt for the world professed in the Chris- 
tian ghetto which we are in the process of leaving behind. This time, 
we no longer confront an aberration projected internally in forms 
that were somber and tormented, but an aberration which is projected 
externally, with all the glamor and happy arrogance of a reason mad- 
dened by frenzy for novelty. This is the second poisonous fruit, 
equally dangerous, if not more so than the first (on account of its in- 
tellectual character), but which will probably not last as long as the 
misunderstanding I have been discussing here. For when foolishness 
acquires such considerable dimensions among Christians, either it 
must be resorbed pretty quickly, or it will ultimately detach them 
from the Church. What foolishness? Kneeling before the world. This 
will be the subject of the fifth and last section of this chapter. 

Schema XIII 


Schema XIII— the Pastoral Constitution on the Human Condition 
in Today s World — is a document of great wisdom and admirable loy- 
alty, even more significant, it seems to me, in its general approach 
than in its particular clarifications. What is paramount in such a 
teaching is not so much its analyses of today's problems, as correct as 
they are, but the exposition and complete clarification which it offers 
us of the attitude of the Church herself to the world, whether one 
considers the unalterable truths on which this attitude is based, or on 
the modalities required by the degree of evolution reached by the 
world of today. 

When he sees to what degree this Pastoral Constitution is impreg- 
nated with the spirit and the basic views of the Angelic Doctor, an 
old Thomist like myself is cheered. 

I think, in particular, that either Christians or non-Christians, all 


5 1 

those who care for man and the future of civilization, are deeply in 
its debt for having made the human person, his dignity and his rights, 
the central theme of its vast teaching. 

In this connection, let us at once take note of an especially impor- 
tant fact. The Pope, putting things clearly in focus, reminded us that 
the aggiornamento is in no way an adaptation of the Church to the 
world, as if the latter were supposed to establish norms for the for- 
mer; it is a disclosure of fhe Church's own essential position. Well, 
the emphasis of schema XIII on the human person is a remarkable 
illustration of this truth. For is not a striking contrast between the 
Church and the world to be seen there? In that community of human 
persons which is a society, the Church, in keeping with the demands 
of truth, gives primacy to the person over the community; 69 whereas 
today's world gives primacy to the community over the person — a 
highly interesting and significant disagreement. In our age of civiliza- 
tion the Church will increasingly become— bless Her— the refuge and 
support (perhaps the only one) of the person. Those unfortunate 
clerics who do not see that would do well to re-read the Pastoral Con- 

Allow me a parenthetical remark at this point. Thanks especially, I 
believe, to Emmanuel Mounier, the expression “personalist and com- 
munitarian” has become something of a catch phrase for French 
Catholic thought and rhetoric. I am not without some responsibility 
for this myself. At a time when it mattered very much to oppose to 
the totalitarian slogans a new— and true — one, I had gently solicited 
my gray cells, and finally, in one of my books of that period, advanced 
the phrase in question. It is from me, I believe, that Mounier got it. 
The expression is right, but when I see the way it is now being used, I 

m I do not mean that this primacy forms the object of a particular phrase of 
the pastora.1 Constitution, but that for anyone who reads it with care, it is present 
and affirmed throughout the overall framework of the Constitution. What the 
pastoral Constitution brings to light is the fundamental fact that the human com- 
munity is a community of persons; and that, accordingly, tbe common good itself 
demands respect for the rights of persons and the recognition of their essential 
aspirations. (Let ns not forget that the common good of a community of persona 
is “common*' in an eminent sense — that is, common to the whole and to the 
parts^en d demands, therefore, to flow bade on the latter, or to be distributed for 
the benefit of the persons who compose it. On the other hand, the goods toward 
which the human person tench insofar as the spiritual in him is concerned — and 
which, in the natural order itaeif, are, tike truth and the things of God, superior 
to tbe temporal common good — overflow nevertheless upon this common good, 
assisting it and elevating it from above.) 

5 2 


am not very proud of it. For it is clear that after paying lip-service to 
the “personalist,” it is really the “communitarian” which those who 
use it cherish. 

But let us leave this parenthesis and return to schema XIII. 

Its perspective is the same perspective— basically “ontosophic”— as 
that of Genesis and the Summa theologica. In other words, it con- 
siders the world and nature in their essential structures and* in what 
constitutes them in themselves. This is indeed that perspective which 
had been neglected and ignored in an increasingly disastrous way dur- 
ing the last few centuries. It is this, therefore, that it was all-important 
to re-establish, clearly and unmistakably. To have stressed in the 
same document a totally different perspective, considering the world 
no longer in itself but in its relation to the kingdom of God, would 
have risked shuffling the cards by demanding of the intelligence of 
readers (to distinguish is a difficult and fatiguing job) an excessive 
and too painful effort. (I am afraid that is perhaps what I am about to 
do in the present chapter, but a peasant of the Garonne, who commits 
only himself, is, naturally enough, not afraid to stick his neck out, 
and can run risks which the Fathers of a holy Council have a duty to 

Placing itself, accordingly, in the perspective of Genesis and of the 
Summa— in other words, considering human nature and the world in 
the very elements which constitute their being— the Pastoral Consti- 
tution flatly affirms their radical goodness and the call to progress 
which, however thwarted by the ambiguity of matter and the wounds 
of sin, is inscribed in their essence. It shows, not merely in a general 
way, but in a very extended analysis, and with that total generosity 
which springs from divine charity, how the Church, even while re- 
maining within the sphere of her spiritual mission and of the things 
which are God's, can and wants to assist the world and the human 
race in their endeavor to advance toward their temporal goals. 

Indeed, it is the perennial doctrine of the Church which we see 
thereby reaffirmed— but with new and singularly important notes: it is 
reaffirmed under the sign of freedom— no longer to claim the Church's 
right to intervene ratione peccati in worldly affairs in order to repress 
evil (that, I believe, she will always be obliged to do, in one form or 
another), but to declare her right, and her will, to quicken, prod and 
assist from above ( ratione boni perficiendi , if I may put it that way) 



and without trespassing on the autonomy of the temporal, the de- 
velopments of the world toward a greater good to be attained. 

The message of the Church to the age is now formulated in a de- 
cidedly and blessedly widened manner— no longer as though ad- 
dressed to a Christendom which was formerly “sacral” and is now 
more or less secularized, but as addressed to the entire world and to 
the whole of mankind, to the “profane” civilization which is that of 
today, and is now in the process of being extended to all peoples. 

The Pastoral Constitution thus opens up immense horizons. We 
can say that it is the final liquidation of that masked manicheism 
which I spoke of at such length, which had poisoned several centuries 
of history, until in our day it had created an untenable psychological 
situation, and provoked, in reaction, the most serious crisis. 

As to the present crisis itself, with all the confusions, follies and 
denials it carries with it, and with that fascinatio nugacitatis to which 
it exposes the Christian soul, it will only be liquidated in its turn by a 
great and patient work of revitalizing in the order of intelligence and 
the order of spirituality. All that the Pastoral Constitution could do 
and should do from this point of view, was to lay the foundations for 
such a work on a solid and well-swept terrain, by serenely establishing 
in their exact meaning— and by the same token, tearing away from 
error— the truths which error was exploiting and disfiguring. We owe 
it a great debt because it is the effective beginning of the liquidation 
of the present crisis. The positions of the teaching Church appear 
clearly henceforth. As far as she is concerned, she has, through the 
Council, put an end from now on to the misunderstanding from 
which Catholic thought has too long suffered as regards the things of 
the world. 

But among a good many Christians the misunderstanding continues 
and grows worse. 

Kneeling Before the World 


The present crisis has many diverse aspects. One of the most curious 
spectacles it offers us is a kind of kneeling before the world , which is 
revealed in a thousand ways. 


As we have seen, the word “world” can be understood in a number 
of different ways. Before what “world,” then, are people kneeling? 
The world considered in its natural and temporal structures? Why 
certainly. But considered only in that sense, as a good many of those 
who kneel seem to believe or would like to believe? I mean, the pure 
world of science, of astronomers and geologists, physicists and biolo- 
gists, psychologists, ethnologists, sociologists, as well as the world of 
technicians, manufacturers, trade unionists, statesmen? Come now! 
Have you ever seen a scientist genuflecting to the world (unless by 
chance he is a Jesuit, but then he is not a pure scientist, he is an 
apologist in disguise)? Have you ever seen a statesman genuflect to 
the world (unless he is not a statesman but a megalomaniac like 
Adolf Hitler)? That a good many Christians today kneel before the 
world is a fact perfectly clear. And this is what we have to look at first 
of all. But of what world precisely are we dealing with here? In other 
words, what do these Christians have in their mind, what do they 
think in behaving this way? This is a good deal more obscure because 
for the most part they think very little and confusedly. That will give 
us a second question to examine. 

What then do we see around us? In large sectors of both clergy and 
laity (but it is the clergy who set the example), hardly is the word 
“world” pronounced when a gleam of ecstasy lights up the face of one 
and all. And immediately what is talked about are the necessary 1 
epanouissements (blossomings of dear human nature) and the nec- ^ 
essary engagements (commitments), as well as the communitarian 
fervors, and the presences , the ouvertures (openings to the dear 
world), and their joys. Anything that would risk calling to mind the 
idea of asceticism, mortification, or penance is automatically shelved 
as a matter of course. (If Lourdes remains popular, the words pro- 
nounced by the Virgin who appeared there are not.) And fasting is in 
such bad repute that it is better to say nothing of the one by which 
Jesus prepared for His public mission. A friend of mine recently 
heard the Litany of the Saints recited in the vernacular in his parish 
church. When the priest reached the invocation: per baptismum et 
sanctum jejunium tuum (through your baptism and holy fasting) he 
confined himself to saying “through your baptism,” without further 
ado. (We do not fast, therefore the Lord didn't fast either.) On an- 
other occasion, in the same church, my friend actually heard the line 



of St. Paul: “A thorn was given me in the flesh, an angel of Satan to 
harass me” 70 become “I am having trouble with my health." As to 
the repugnance felt by our Catholics for fasting, it is not without 
some interest to note that it is occurring in the very time when the 
disciples of Ghandi have demonstrated the virtues of fasting on the 
level of natural mystique and non-violent resistance. 

Sex is one of the great and tragic realities of the world. It is curious 
to see how much interest, carried to the point of veneration, is mani- 
fested in this subject by a crowd of Levites vowed to continence. 
Virginity and chastity have a bad press. Marriage, on the other hand, 
is fervently idealized, love is its essence. Of its nature, it claims to be 
nothing but mutual enchantment, the delight of seeing one’s self re- 
flected in the eyes of the other. What is more beautiful than a pair 
of young lovers? That's certainly quite true, especially in the works of 
the great sculptors. But it's no reason for us to kiss the ground under 
their feet. 

I know very well that behind the silliness to which I am referring 
there is the necessary and urgent awareness of serious (increasingly 
serious as time goes on) and often torturous problems. I know very 
well that too many people are living in despair, that there are too 
many with pent-up anxieties, that far from being a life of delightful 
love and mutual gentleness, marriage too often means mutual solitude 
and daily apprehension; that too many situations call not only for 
pity but for a new attitude on the part of those who have to judge of 
them. I think that the Church, who is at last submitting these prob- 
lems as a whole to a thorough study, can never be too attentive in en- 
lightening the human being about them, nor too merciful to him in 
his distresses. The fact remains that none of this makes any less silly 
the Catholic veneration of the Flesh to which so many Sheep of 
Panurge's are rtiviting us today. Such a veneration would rather be of 
a nature to make us regret the ancient pagan cults of Sex and Fertil- 
ity which it least were not pieces of trickery. 

The other great reality which faces us in the world is Earthly social 
Life with ali its conflicts, its sorrows, and its immense set of problems: 
starvation, destitution, war, and social and racial injustice. We know 
that we must struggle unceasingly against these evils, there is no 
need for me to reconsider here what I have said of the temporal mis- 

70 St. Pan], i Cor. 12:7. 


sion of the Christian. Nevertheless, this struggle is not our one and 
only duty because the earth and the earthly social life are not the one 
and only reality. This temporal duty, moreover, is really and truly ac- 
complished by the Christian only if the life of grace and prayer makes 
natural energies more pure and upright in the very order of nature. 

That is what, at the present, many generous Christians refuse to 
see. Accordingly, at least in practice and in their way of acting, and 
even— for those who are boldest and most determined to go the 
whole way— in doctrine and in their way of thinking (of thinking 
about the world and their own religion), the great concern and the 
only thing that matters for them is the temporal vocation of the hu- 
man race, with its march, embattled but victorious, to justice, peace, 
and happiness. Instead of realizing that our devotion to the temporal 
task must be that much firmer and more ardent since we know that 
the human race will never succeed on this earth in delivering itself 
completely from evil— because of the wounds of Adam, and because 
our ultimate end is supernatural— they make of these earthly goals 
the truly supreme end for humanity. 

In other words, there is henceforth only the earth. A complete 
temporalization of Christianity! I said before that for the most part 
those Christians who kneel before the world don't do much thinking. 
To those who have pushed their thinking further, occasionally with a 
rigorous and superb logic, this conclusion appears clearly. And so we 
hold it at last: the Thought which the Christians kneeling before the 
world have in their heads; which, as I said at the beginning of this 
section, formed for us the object of a second question to be ex- 
amined. They all have this Thought, but those who think in a con- 
fused way manage somehow never to discern it. If by some chance it 
were spelled out for them, many would rush to disavow it, some 
with horror. 

The idea of the double movement in which the Christian is en- 
gaged, the march toward beatitude (not simple "happiness") and to- 
ward the kingdom of God— which has already come (it is the 
Church), but which will reach fulfillment and be fully revealed only 
in glory and in eternity — and at the same time the march toward the 
above-mentioned triple and progressive expansion and the conquests 



to be achieved by man— this true notion makes way to the idea of a 
natural Evolution which the liberty of the human being has to acti- 
vate and accelerate, and which is drawing the entire world toward 
some glorious parousia of the collective Man: which implies contra- 
diction, moreover (but that matters little to the grandchildren of 
Hegel), for if there is a final term and parousia, evolution stops, 
whereas the very essence of man and of earthly life demands that it 
continue without end ' : .* 

Be that as it may, the distinction between the temporal and the 
spiritual, between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are 
God’s, inevitably becomes blurred for the fascinated Christians of 
whom I am speaking. The more determined of them are already flatly 
denying it. That is self-evident: since the kingdom of God has no 
reality beyond the world, it is only a leaven in the dough of the 
world. If Christ (after all, cannot a broad-minded enough religion 
consider that he probably is God— as the greatest of men, a sublime 
flower of the human race, in whom the Soul of the world has fully 
concentrated itself?), if Christ has a mystical Body, it is the world 
which is that mystical Body. 

We asked ourselves earlier before what “world” many Christians 
are kneeling today. Now we have the answer. It is the world of nature, 
yes, the world in its natural and temporal structures, but insofar as it 
supposedly absorbs into itself the kingdom of God, and is itself— in a 
state of becoming, and, at the final end, in perfect fullness— the 
mystical Body of Christ 

We can understand henceforth why there are three things an intel- 
ligent preacher should never speak about, and which an up-to-date 
Christian should think about as seldom as possible, although one has 
to recite the Creed each Sunday (but there are so many myths 
therein; and besides, one can always repeat a formula — even in the 
vernacular— without stopping to think about it). 

The first thing to leave in oblivion is obviously the other world 
(since there isn't any). 

The second thing to leave in oblivion is the cross (it is only a sym- 
bol of the momentary sacrifices demanded by progress) . 

The third thing to leave in oblivion is sanctity— it it is true that 
sanctity has its principle, at the center of the soul (even if the saint 


remains plunged in the activities of the world) in a radical break with 
the world (in the Gospel sense of the word) and with the false god 
of the world, its mythical god, “the Emperor of this world.” 


I take the liberty of insisting thereon: if Christians, in effect, were 
to renounce keeping in their hearts the desire for sanctity (even if 
they only desire it very distantly, excessively distantly, even if they 
live in evil), this would be an ultimate betrayal against God and 
against the world . 

The saints participate throughout the course of time in the re- 
deeming work of Jesus on behalf of the world. Their personal relation 
to the world is paradoxical and mysterious. For them, it seems to me, 
the world is above all an occasion for dying to themselves in order 
to be entirely delivered up by love to Love. 

Taking up again what I wrote in a small book already a good many 
years old , 71 let us try, I would say, to imagine what takes place in the 
soul of a saint at the crucial moment when he makes his first irrevoca- 
ble decision. Let us picture to ourselves St. Francis of Assisi when he 
throws away his clothing and appears naked before his bishop, or St. 
Benedict Labre when he decides to become a lice-infested beggar vag- 
abonding along the roads. At the root of such an act there was some- 
thing so profound in the soul that one does not know how to express 
it— let us say that it is a simple refusal, a total, stable, supremely ac- 
tive refusal to accept things as they are: it is not a question here of 
knowing whether things and nature and the face of this world are 
good in their essence — yes, they are, being is good in the very measure 
to which it is, grace perfects nature and does not destroy it— but these 
truths have nothing to do with the act of interior rupture that we are 
considering.' This act has to do with a fact, an existential fact: things 
as they are are intolerable. In the reality of existence the world is in- 
fected with lying, injustice, wickedness, distress, and misery; creation 
has been corrupted by sin to such an extent that in the very marrow 
of his soul, the saint refuses to accept it as it is. Evil — I mean by that 

71 La Signification de L'Athiisme Contemporain (Paris: Descl^e De Brouwer, 
J 949)- 



the power of sin, and the universal suffering which it drags in its wake 
—evil is such that the only thing he has immediately at hand to op- 
pose it totally, and that intoxicates the saint with liberty, exultation, 
and love, is to give everything, to abandon everything, the sweetness 
of the world, and what is good, and what is better, and what is delect- 
able and permitted, and more than anything, himself, in order to be 
free to be with God. To do this is to be totally stripped and given 
over in order to seize fht power of the cross; it is to die for those he 
loves. This is a flash of intuition and will above any order of human 
morality. Once the soul of a man has been touched in flight by this 
burning wing it becomes a stranger everywhere. It can fall in love 
with things, never will it take repose in them. The saint is alone in 
treading the wine press, and among the peoples there is no one with 
him . 71 

As for the one I just called the Emperor of this world, he is the 
false god of the philosophers when, knowing of the existence of the 
supreme Being, they fail to recognize his glow, deny the abyss of lib- 
erty which his transcendance signifies, and chain him to the world 
which he himself has made: a false god responsible for the world but 
powerless to redeem it, who would only be the supreme guarantee 
and justification of the fabric of the world, and would give his sanc- 
tion to every evil as well as to every good at work in the world; a god 
who would bless injustice and slavery and misery, and make the tears 
of children and the agony of the innocent a pure and simple ingredi- 
ent of the sacred necessities of the eternal cycles or of the evolution. 
Such a god would be the unique supreme Being, to be sure, but 
transformed into an idol, the naturalist God of nature, the Jupiter of 
this world, the great God of the idolators, of the mighty on their 
thrones, and the rich in their earthly glory, of success without law 
and pure fact erected into law. With respect to such a god, the saint 
is a complete atheist 73 . . . . Such kinds of atheists are the mysterious 
pillars of heaven. They give the wodd that supplement of soul, as 
Bergson said, which the world needs. 

But if the other world is done away with, and if, by the same 

71 Uaiah, 63:3. 

7a “Were not the Jews aad the -early Christian* often treated as atheists by the 
pagans at the time of the Roman Empire? There was a hidden meaning in this 
outrage/' (Ibid., p. 28.) Cf. St. Justin, Frrrt Apology , VI, 1: “That is why wc are 
called indeed, wc admit it, we are the atheists of these pretended god*." 



token, God loses his infinite transcendence, then there is no longer 
any Heavenly Father, there is only the Emperor of this world, before 
whom everyone should kneel. And the atheists of this false god are 
finished, Christians are on their knees before the world, and the 
world has lost the saints. 


At the close of our reflections on the age-old misunderstanding 
from which Christian thought has suffered in regard to the world, we 
are thus brought back to the curious kneeling of which the spectacle 
is offered today by believers whose faith in God needs to be re-invig- 
orated by the blood transfusion of a passionate faith in the world. 

What do we find at the origin of this kneeling? An insane mistake 
— the confusion between two completely different senses in which 
the same word “world” is being understood. 

There is, as we have seen, an “ontosophic truth” about the world 
considered in its natural structures or in what properly constitutes it; 
in this sense we must say that the world is fundamentally good. 

And there is a “religious” or “mystical” truth about the world con- 
sidered in its ambiguous relationship to the kingdom of God and the 
Incarnation. Then we must say that the world, insofar as it accepts to 
be assumed into the kingdom, is saved; while insofar as it refuses the 
kingdom, and encloses itself in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the 
eyes, and the pride of the spirit, it is the adversary of Christ and his 
disciples, and hates them. 

Well, when people muddle these two understandings of the word 
“world,” by imagining that the first truth concerning the world de- 
stroys the second, because it signifies that there is no kingdom of God 
distinct from the world , and that the world absorbs into itself this 
kingdom , then it is the world itself which is the kingdom of God, in a 
state of becoming (and, at the final end, in glory). And it hasn't the 
slightest need to be saved from above, nor to be assumed and finally 
transfigured in Another world, a divine world. God, Christ, the 
Church, the sacraments, are intrinsic to the world, as constituting its 
soul which fashions little by little its body and its supra-individual 
personality. It is from within, and by means of its soul, itself at work 



within it, that the world will be saved, or rather that it saves itself and 
exalts itself. Down on your knees, then, with Hegel and his followers, 
before this illusory world; to it our faith, out hope, our love! We are 
more Christian than ever since Christ is in it, and is consubstantial 
with it (if I may employ a word so ill-considered by the French trans- 
lators of the Creed). 

Reality nevertheless remains what it is, not what we would like it to 
be. In fact God is infinitely transcendent; in fact there is a superna- 
tural order which is the order of grace; in fact there was an event 
called the Incarnation of the eternal Word; in fact there is Another 
world, which is the kingdom of God already begun. And thus in 
spite of our dreams, in kneeling before the world, it is not of a world 
which would absorb into itself the kingdom of God, it is of a world 
which refuses all that, and which wants neither Christ (“the world 
hates me”) nor the kingdom of God, it is of the world withdrawn 
into itself, and enemy of the Gospel that we are friends . It is to this 
world and the false god who is its Emperor (and not merely, as we 
perhaps believe unless we take the trouble to reflect a little, before the' 
world of nature and of science) that we are genuflecting. 

Such is the mistake of the Christians who are led astray by our mo- 
ment in history and the sudden displacement of the pendulum, now 
flung to the opposite extreme from the masked manicheism which, 
for a century and a half, has wrought disastrous havoc. 

At this point it is suitable to say with particular insistence: haec 
oportebat facere , et ilia non omittere , “These things you ought to 
have done, and the others not to have omitted /' 74 It was necessary to 
struggle against the world as the adversary of the saints, but without 
neglecting (this is said for the past) to devote oneself to the temporal 
progress of a world oppressed by injustice and misery. And it is neces- 
sary to dedicate ourselves to this temporal progress, but without ne- 
glecting (this is said for today) to struggle against the world as the 
adversary of the saints. 

Not only are the two tasks compatible, they call for one another. 
The temporal progress of the world requires the re-enforcement that 
comes from the kingdom of God elevating and enlightening souls, 
accordingly requires the struggle against the world insofar as it is the 
enemy of the kingdom. r Fhe progress of souls toward the kingdom of 

74 Matt. 13:23. 



God requires them to love the world with that love which is charity 
as a creature of God on the way to its own natural ends, and therefore 
to cooperate in its temporal struggle against injustice and misery. 

After all, why should I not point out that for thirty or forty years, 
I myself, to the extent of my powers, have borne witness to the neces- 
sity of this twofold task, as well as to the two contrasting truths (ac- 
cording to the point of view in which one is placed) that we must at 
all costs maintain on the subject of the world? Summarizing all this, I 
wrote in On the Philosophy of History: “The fact of so many millions 
of men starving and living in despair, in a life unworthy of man, is an 
insult to Christ and to brotherly love. As a result, the temporal mis- 
sion of the Christian is to strive to eradicate such evils, and to try to 
build up a Christian-inspired social and political order, where justice 
and brotherhood will be better and better served.” 75 And in the 
same book I also wrote: “St. Paul has said: 'All who desire to live a 
godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution/ 76 It is certainly not 
a very optimistic statement with respect to the world. The Christian, 
because he is not of the world, will always be a foreigner in the world 
— I mean, in the world as separating itself from the kingdom of God 
and shutting itself up in itself; he is incomprehensible to the world 
and inspires it with uneasiness and distrust. The world cannot make 
sense of the theological virtues. Theological faith, the world sees as a 
challenge, an insult, and a threat; it is by reason of their faith that it 
dislikes Christians, it is through their faith that they vanquish it; faith 
is enough to divide them from the world. Theological hope, the 
world does not see at all; it is simply blind to it. Theological charity, 
the world sees the wrong way; it misapprehends it, is mistaken about 
it. It confuses it with any kind of quixotic devotion to whatever hu- 
man cause it may profit by. And thus does the world tolerate charity, 
even admire it— insofar as it is not charity, but something else. (And 
so charity is the secret weapon of Christianity.)” 77 

If there are any prophets of the avant-garde or of the rear guard 
who imagine that our duties to the world, such as they have been 
brought to light under the grace of the Holy Spirit by the Second 

75 On the Philosophy of History , op. cit. y p. 154. 

7 « 2 Tim. 3:12. 

77 On the Philosophy of History t op. cit., p. 148. 


6 3 

Vatican Council, erase what the Lord Jesus Himself and His apostles 
have said of the world— T/ze world hates me, The world cannot re- 
ceive the Spirit of truth, If anyone loves the world the love of the 
Father is not in him , and all the other texts that I recalled earlier— I 
know well what must be said of such prophets (a saying of questiona- 
ble taste but one which used to amuse an old Dominican dear to my 
heart) : they are poking the finger of God in their eye. 

February 14, 1966 




On the duration of the crisis I have just been discussing, the reactions 
it will produce, the rubble it will leave in its wake, the gravity that it 
can assume at certain moments or in certain countries, one would 
have to be a prophet to hazard the slightest opinion. Everything de- 
pends on the unforeseeable ways of God and his secret graces, to- 
gether with human liberty, comprised as it is in his eternal plan. What 
is certain is that the Church will emerge from this crisis wonderfully 
purified; error will not have got the better of her. 

It is certain also, as so many voices rightly tell us, that the Vatican 
Council was the announcement of a new age. As I have noted before 
and have no need of repeating, the Council itself sketched the broad 
outlines of this new age when it aggiornamented the eternal treasures 
of the Church, thanks to a more profound awareness and a more com- 
plete explanation of certain great truths hitherto contained in these 

On the other hand, we can observe that by a paradox not rare in 
human history, what is disfigured and distorted frequently appears 
before what is straight, the counterfeit product before the authentic 
thing. If I am not mistaken, there were more or less heretical 
fraticelli before St. Francis of Assisi. Didn't Habacuc say that the 
devil marches before the feet of God? 1 One can imagine him easily 
enough as a cur yelping and snarling before the feet of the Lord and 
biting whoever he can. Instead of saying the "devil," the best modern 
translators say the "plague," which suits my purpose just as well, since 

1 Habac. 3:5. 




what I actually have in mind is the dangerous fever of veneration for 
the world which is raging today among a certain number of naive but 
often quite generous people. 

Obsolete from the instant they make their appearance, the different 
forms of neo-modemism with which we have been concerned in the 
preceding chapters are products of anticipated counterfeit which set 
the mind off in a false track. The true new fire, the genuine dis- 
coveries which will ocCur in the new age we are entering, and by 
means of which, in the historic perspectives opened by the Council, 
Christian consciousness will penetrate deeper and further into the 
truth by which it lives and the evangelical reality, will have nothing in 
common with the collection of old repressed desires and confused 
ambitions with which the public relations men of the Old Liar are 
operating. Nor will it have anything in common with their pseudo- 
scientific and pseudo-philosophical claptrap, nor with that holy par- 
ousia of Man in the name of which they call for a Christian kneeling 
before the world. 

The true new fire, the essential renewal, will be an inner renewal. 
One need not be a prophet to see that; it is enough to open one's 
eyes. To speak with competence on the different aspects of this inner 
renewal, it would be necessary to have an intelligence above the 
average, like all those who exchange ideas on television. It is very 
timidly, then, that I shall try to say something about that in this 
chapter and those that follow, as an old man who blinks his eyes and 
isn't very intelligent (which is not too serious) but who, for all that, 
is not a child of light (which is vexing). For it has been said (what 
follows is a loose translation): “The children of light are far from 
knowing their business as astutely as the children of the age." 2 In- 
deed, that is rather obvious. 


This chapter will deal with the renewal of our thought (and con- 
sequently, our behavior) toward non-Christians. 

To begin with, one can consider Christians and non-Christians 
simply insofar as they are men. This is merely an introduction or 
2 Luke 16:8. 



preliminary consideration of the subject; it is useful all the same. 

Holding myself then, to begin with, in this perspective, allow me to 
use here a few passages from a speech I delivered some twenty years 
ago to a conference of UNESCO. (It will give an old hand like me a 
chance to catch his breath and, come to think of it, it was not so 
badly put, although in a style which is no longer mine.) It was the 
problem of peace among nations that occupied our minds, and it was 
in terms of this problem that I took for my theme “The Possibilities 
of Cooperation in a Divided World / 73 I asked: In this world pros- 
trated by post-war grief, and by the leaden mantle of rival economic, 
political and ideological interests, shall not those who are dedicated 
to the works of the mind and who feel the responsibility of such a 
mission give voice to the primitive instinct for preservation, to the 
immense longing for peace and freedom, to the repudiation of death 
and misfortune which, despite a strange apparent passivity more 
closely resembling despair than strength of soul, are stirring within 
the deepest recesses of men's consciousness? Yet, at first glance there 
is something paradoxical in UNESCO's task: it implies intellectual 
agreement among men whose conceptions of the world, of culture, of 
knowledge itself are different or even mutually opposed. They belong 
not merely to different civilizations, but to antagonistic spiritual fami- 
lies and philosophic schools. How is an agreement of thought con- 
ceivable between them? 

My response was that the finality of UNESCO was a practical 
finality, and hence “agreement among its members can be spontane- 
ously achieved, not on common speculative notions, but on comnton 
practical notions; not on the affirmation of the same conception of 
the world, man and knowledge, but on the affirmation of the same set 
of convictions concerning action. This is doubtless very little; it is the 
last refuge of intellectual agreement among men. It is, however, 
enough to undertake a great work." 

When it is a question, not of a common speculative ideology, nor of 
common explanatory principles, but, on the contrary, of the basic 

3 This speech was given in Mexico on November 1, 1947, at the opening of 
the second International Conference of UNESCO; I was the president of the 
French delegation. (The complete text is in my book, Le Philosophe dans la Cite , 
Paris; Alsatia, i960); the English translation makes up Ch. XIII of my previ- 
ously published collection, The Range of Reason (New York: Charles Scribner's 
Sons, 1952), Ch. XIII, pp. 172-184. 



practical ideology and the basic principles of action implicitly recog- 
nized today, in a vital if not a formulated manner, by the conscious- 
ness of free peoples, this happens to constitute grosso modo a sort of 
common residue, a sort of unwritten common law, at the point of 
practical convergence of extremely different theoretical ideologies and 
spiritual traditions. To understand that, it is sufficient to distinguish 
properly between the rational justifications, inseparable from the 
spiritual dynamism^of 3 philosophical doctrine or a religious faith, and 
the practical conclusions which, separately justified for each, are, for 
all, analogically common principles of action. I am fully convinced 
that my way of justifying the belief in the rights of man and the ideal 
of liberty, equality, fraternity, is the only one which is solidly based 
on truth. That does not prevent me from agreeing on these practical 
tenets with those who are convinced that their way of justifying them, 
entirely different from mine, or even opposed to mine in its theo- 
retical dynamism, is likewise the only one that is based on truth. 
Assuming they both believe in the democratic charter, a Christian 
and a rationalist will, nevertheless, give justifications that are incom- 
patible with each other, to which their souls, their minds and their 
blood are committed, and about these justifications they will fight. 
And God keep me from saying that it is not important to know which 
of the two is right! That is essentially important. They remain, how- 
ever, in agreement on the practical affirmation of that charter, and 
they can formulate together common principles of action. 

Thus, in my opinion, can the paradox I pointed out earlier be 
solved. The ideological agreement which is necessary between those 
who work toward making science, culture and education contribute to 
the establishment of a true peace, is restricted to a certain body of 
practical points and of principles of action. But within these limits 
there is, and there must be, an ideological agreement which, for all its 
merely practical nature, is none the less of major importance. In the 
justification he offers for that body of practical principles, everyone 
commits himself fully, with all of his philosophical and religious con- 
victions— how could he speak with faith, if not in the light of the 
speculative convictions which quicken his thought? But he is not en- 
titled to demand that others subscribe to his own justification of the 
practical principles on which all agree. And the practical principles 
in question form a sort of charter which is indispensable for any effec- 



tive common action, and the formulation of which would matter to 
the good itself and the success of the peace-making work to which 
their common endeavors are dedicated . 4 

It was on these bases that some years later the United Nations for- 
mulated the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man— a docu- 
ment of great historic significance. Naturally, it is just as important to 
refrain from indulging in illusions. And it is clear that in the manner 
of applying the practical principles formulated in common, considera- 
ble differences are to appear, due to the spirit, the theoretical convic- 
tions, the religious faith or the philosophical dogmas which inspire 
and make larger and more exalted, or narrower and lower, the action 
of those who, in this case, do not merely formulate, but put existen- 
tially the practical principles in question to work. Did I not note at 
the beginning that an agreement of thought on common principles 
which are merely practical is very little indeed —' “the last refuge of 
agreement among minds ' 7 — in other words, a bare minimum, so much 
the more necessary since without it there is nothing left but inexpia- 
ble conflict, the mortal war to which the dissensions now tearing the 
world asunder would, if left to themselves, lead? 

The fact remains that, as I said at the close of my address in 
Mexico, we all know that if the work of peace is to be prepared 
in the thought of men and in the consciousness of nations, it is on 
the condition that minds come to be deeply convinced of princi- 
ples like the following: Good politics is first and foremost a politics 
that is just— every people should strive to understand the psychology, 
the development and traditions, the material and moral needs, the 
proper dignity and historic calling of the other peoples, because every 
people should look out not only for its own advantages but for the 
common good of the assembly of nations— this awakening of mutual 
understanding and of the sense of the civilized community, though 
it supposes (given the age-old habits of human history) a sort of 
spiritual revolution, nevertheless answers requirements of public em- 
ergency in a world which, from now on, is one world for life or for 
death, while it remains disastrously divided as to political passions 
and interests— to place national interest above everything is a sure 
means of losing everything— a community of free men is only con- 
ceivable if it recognizes that truth is the expression of what is, and 
right the expression of what is just, and not of what is most expedient 

4 Cf. The Range of Reason, pp. 180-181. 



at a given time for the interest of the human group— it is not permis- 
sible to take the life of an innoeent man beeause he has beeome a use- 
less and eostly burden to the nation, or beeause he impedes the suc- 
cessful undertakings of any group whatsoever— the human person is 
endowed with a dignity which the very good of the community pre- 
supposes and must, for its own sake, respect, and is also endowed, 
whether as a eivie, or as a soeial or working person, with certain funda- 
mental rights and fundamental obligations— the common good eomes 
before private interests— the world of labor has a right to the social 
transformations required by its coming of age in human history, and 
the masses have a right to participate in the common treasure of cul- 
ture and of the spirit— the domain of consciences is inviolable— men 
of various beliefs and spiritual lineages must recognize each others 
rights as fellow-citizens in the civilized community— it is the duty of 
the State, for the very sake of the common good, to respect religious 
freedom as well as freedom of research— the basie equality of men 
makes prejudices of race, class or caste, and raeial discrimination, 
offenses against human nature and the dignity of the person as well 
as a deep-seated threat to peaee. 

If a state of peaee worthy of the name, firm and enduring, is to be 
established one day among the peoples of the world, this will depend 
not only upon the economic, political and financial arrangements 
readied by diplomats and statesmen, nor will it depend solely upon 
the juridical building up of a truly supra-national eo-ordinating organ- 
ism endowed with efficient means of aetion; it will depend also upon 
the deep adherence of men’s consciousness to practical principles like 
those I have recalled. And, to state things as they are, it will depend 
also upon that bigger soul whieh, aeeording to Bergson, our world, be- 
come technically greater, needs, and upon a victorious outpouring of 
that supreme and free energy whieh eomes to us from on high, and 
whose name we know— whatever may be our religious denomination 
or sehool of thought— to be brotherly love, a name whieh has been 
pronounced in sueh a manner by the Gospel that it has stirred the 
conscience of man for all time . 5 

I hope these long explanations will be exeused. I had to make as 
clear is possible, in a particular example, this somewhat doctoral yet 
indeed far-reaching assertion that if men are genuinely to cooperate in 
view of certain objectives whieh have to do with the common good of 

h Op. cit., pp. 183-184. 



mankind, it will be only on condition that they can establish an intel- 
lectual agreement on the basis of common practical principles in spite 
of their irreducible divisions on the level of speculative convictions. 
In other words, on condition that they are able to formulate together 
certain common principles of action. 

We can be sure that what is true in the case of this objective— peace 
to be assured among nations— is similarly true when it comes to any 
other objective of major importance for human welfare. 

We need only to add that once all this is clear, and we have firmly 
rejected the once haughty and queer idea that divisions and opposi- 
tions in the speculative domain, however radical and irreducible, de- 
stroy any chance of genuinely effective agreement and practical 
cooperation, and condemn us either to perpetual wars, or to subordi- 
nating everything to the victory (by strength of argument or force of 
arms) of one philosophical or religious creed over all the others, we 
should also beware of deviating in an opposite direction with not less, 
but even more, catastrophic results. For it would amount to ignoring 
the imprescriptible rights of the speculative order — in other words, of 
truth itself, which is superior to every human interest. It could hap- 
pen that in the name of realizing an agreement on the level of practi- 
cal principles and of action, we would be tempted either to ignore or 
to forget our speculative convictions because they clash with each 
other, or else to dilute, conceal, or camouflage their opposition by 
making the yes and no kiss one another— and betraying what is— for 
the good looks of human brotherhood. This would not only be throw- 
ing truth to the dogs, but throwing to the dogs human dignity as 
well, and our supreme raison d'etre. The more we fraternize on the 
level of practical principles and common action, the more we should 
strengthen the edges of the opposite convictions which divide us in 
the speculative order and on the level of truth, the first to be served. 


The preceding was only a preliminary consideration. I come now to 
something much more significant and much more important, in 
which I see one of the features of the new age we are entering and of 
the true new fire that has been kindled in our hearts. 


7 1 

Here I am no longer considering Christians and non-Christians 
simply as men . I am considering them as members of Christ: explicitly 
and visibly members of Christ if they are Christians (living members 
if they have grace, “dead" members if they have lost it); members of 
Christ implicitly and invisibly if being non-Christians they have 
Christ's grace; • potentially and invisibly members of Christ if being 
similarly non-Christians they do not have Christ's grace. 

I don't know if the' VdtabuTary I have just used is perfectly exact: 
that's a question for the author of The Church of the Word Incar- 
nate, , But what I do know is that in one guise or another and in one 
way or another, all men , at least potentially, are members of Christ, 
since he came into this world and suffered death for all of them and, 
since, barring a refusal on their part at the final instant of their life, 
he has saved all of them. And didn't Christ himself say that when- 
ever we give or do not give food or drink to any man whatever, as 
soon as he is in want, we are giving (or refusing to give) to Him? To 
Him because this poor man is a member, at least potentially, of 
Christ's body. 

Nothing is superior to truth. But on the level of action there are 
practical truths toward which viewpoints mutually opposed on the 
level of speculative truth can converge. That is why, as we have seen, 
there can be agreement and cooperation in regard to action and 
purely practical principles, between men who are divided in their 
deepest convictions. 

Now, in our present remarks, it is no longer by reason of a practical 
common goal and an action to be conducted in common that men 
must reach agreement on practical common principles; it is by reason 
of a reality infinitely more important, though perfectly invisible, and 
which is not a thing to do, but which is there , at least potentially— 
the fact of their belonging to the Mystical Body through grace; and it 
is by reason of fraternal love to which all are called, and of divine 
charity to which all are called, that we ought to suppose that each has 
in his heart (“suppose," because no one can judge the inmost recesses 
of the soul)— it is by reason of this mysterious supernatural reality 
that men, as divided as they might be in their most profound 
convictions, can and should look each other in the eyes with respect, 

e They are members of Christ in act since they have grace and charity, but with- 
out the consequences which, of its nature, this "in act" demands to have, being 
made explicit. 


and desire a true mutual comprehension, and be ready to help one an- 
other sincerely. 

How can this happen? By knowing (I am speaking of Christians, 
and Christians know this) that they are all members of Christ, at 
least potentially, and all called to the life of grace and charity; and by 
each one presupposing (I am still speaking of Christians) that the 
other lives in the grace and charity of God. When it comes to non- 
Christians, they can do this by making an analogous supposition , 
each from his own religious or philosophical standpoint (even if, in 
the case of the atheist, it is only the perspective of universal human 
solidarity and the common vocation of mankind), on levels of 
thought more or less inferior in the scale when compared to the level 
of those to whom God's Word has been revealed. 

Having said that, I will pause for a moment. After all, it is to Chris- 
tians that I'm actually speaking in this book (my last, I hope). And 
it is first and foremost for Christians that the Council was the procla- 
mation of a new age. It is first and foremost from Christians and 
among Christians that a genuine renewal is to be expected. It is first 
and foremost in them that the true new fire should be kindled. It is 
therefore natural that my reflections should turn especially to them, 
considered in their relations— henceforth profoundly renewed— with 

If what I have advanced earlier is true, they have to treat with non- 
Christians, not, certainly, by forgetting that the latter are not Chris- 
tians, but by attaching to this fact, which is visible, a secondary 
importance so far as their own personal attitude toward them goes. 
The primary importance here belongs to another fact, an invisible 
one: that these non-Christians are , at least potentially, members of 

Thereby we can see to what extent the new fire, the essential re- 
newal, is an inner renewal. For it consists of a change of attitude, or 
a displacement of values that takes place in the deepest recesses of the 
soul, and has to do, first of all and essentially, not with any way of 
acting or externally behaving (that will come, but as a corollary), nor 
with any method of approach or apostolate, any tactic or strategy, or 
any honest and white trickery to try out on our non-Christian 
brothers, but with a way of seeing them before God, and a way of lov- 
ing them better , in a deeper and more genuine conformity with the 



spirit of the Gospel. This inner renewal consists in becoming fully 
aware of the dimensions and “weight” of evangelical love, and in com- 
pletely liberating this love in the soul, so that no final purpose, how- 
ever lofty, exterior to its own essence, can come to mark out a road for 
it and restrict it to a particular object. 

What I mean (to speak in general and of the inner attitude of the 
average Christian) is that for a long time we loved non-Christians— 
truly and sincerely — alth0ugli~they were not Christians (it was this 
risible fact which took precedence). In other words, we loved non- 
Christians primarily inasmuch as, having the misfortune not to be 
Christians, they were called to become so; we loved them primarily 
not as men or for what they were , but as Christians to be or for what 
they are called to become. We loved them primarily as people sitting 
in the shadow of death, toward whom our first duty of charity was to 
strive to convert them to the true faith. But now, by virtue of the 
great inner reversal I am stressing, w T e love non-Christians above all 
because they are, at least potentially , members of Christ (the invisible 
fact has now taken precedence); we love them primarily as human 
persons who are members, at least potentially, of this incarnate Truth 
whom they do not know and whom the errors professed by them 
deny. In short, we love them first of all in their own unfathomable 
mystery, for what they are , and as men in regard to whom the first 
duty of charity is simply love. And so, we love them first and foremost 
the way they are, and in seeking their own good, toward which, in ac- 
tual existence, they have to advance within a religious universe and a 
system of spiritual and cultural values where great errors may abound, 
but where truths worthy of respect and of love are likewise certainly 
present. Through these truths, it is possible for the One who made 
them, for the Truth who is Christ, to touch their hearts in secret, 
without themselves or anyone in the world being aware of it. 

No doubt, it is always in this way and with this evangelical love 
fully liberated in the soul, that the great missionaries loved those to 
whom they were sent to announce the Gospel. It w ? as in this manner 
and with such a love that St. Francis Xavier loved them and that 
Pdre Lcbbe loved them. But I w'ould note in the first place that this 
holy reality which dwelt within them and animated everything in 
them, and which is the soul of all missionary action worthy of the 
Gospel, was lived by them at so deep a level that they themselves 



surely were aware of it, but without feeling, I think, a need to con- 
sider it apart from their mission as apostles of the Gospel, precisely 
because it was an integral part of this mission. In their time such an 
aspect of the inner Christian behavior had not yet been brought out 
as a special matter of attention and reflection for common conscious- 
ness, and no other kind of “mission” of the Christian with respect to 
the non-Christian— like the prophetic mission of Pere de Foucauld 
who went and buried himself among the Berbers for the sole purpose 
of loving them and understanding them with love— had yet been ex- 
plicitly recognized and brought to light. 

In the second place, I note (and here I must be very careful, I am 
treading on dangerous ground, I know) that we may probably doubt 
that all missionaries have had their own vocation as converters rooted 
in that kind of evangelical love, I mean in the love of non-Christians 
not only a$ being called to become Christians, but first of all as men 
(potentially members of Christ) in other words, for themselves and 
for what they are. When one sees how Pere Lebbe was treated by his 
missionary colleagues, and forced to leave China until the Pope saw 
to it that justice was done, one has a right to doubt whether the kind 
of love we are now discussing was very widespread among the col- 
leagues in question. One could not possibly reproach them for this. 
They were simply living according to the commonly received concep- 
tion of their day in which charity toward non-Christians, loved pri- 
marily insofar as they were called to become what they were not, had 
for its primary obligation to work to their conversion to the true faith, 
and was wholly absorbed in self-devotion to this goal. It was lucky if 
from disappointment to disappointment, many poor missionaries did 
not feel their souls invaded by bitterness. (I hope I have not offended 

Here I am back at my theme: the absolute primacy of agapb, of 
brotherly love fully liberated in the soul; in such a way that the great 
renewal in the attitude of Christians toward non-Christians with 
which we are concerned here may be described as a kind of epiphany 
of evangelical love. If it were not that first and foremost, in the inner- 
most recesses of the soul, and if nevertheless it laid claim to make all 
men embrace one another, it would be nothing but mummery. 

A»d here I look as if preaching, which is not my role at all, and 



makes me feel like dropping the whole business. After all, if I can't 
manage to master my own style, that's too bad for me. Nevertheless, 
I must complete the reflections I have begun. 

A word remains to be said (not just one word, alas, but several 
pages) to avoid all misunderstanding. I have said that the true new 
fire, the essential renewal, is an inner renewal. But it is clear also that 
what takes place in the depth of the soul involves, in addition to that, 
a certain external bdhavior and is translated into the sphere of action. 

From this point of view one could, it seems to me, distinguish 
three different zones of behavior. 

A Christian who loves non-Christians in the way I have tried to do- 
fine, can bear witness to this love before God by his prayeT, and be- 
fore men by his life; I say uniquely by his life: in responding to a 
newly perceived invitation in the call of the Gospel, he goes and bides 
himself in the midst of those he loves, with no other purpose other 
than to love them and to understand them with love, in sharing their 
life, their poverty, their sufferings, and without having the least inten- 
tion of converting them, even by what is sometimes called a work of 
“pre-apostolate" (a pernicious word which involves a misunderstand* 
ing, and would transform into a prudent preface for action or a secret 
agent's tactic the authenticity and sincerity of the pure and simple 
fraternal love for these non-Christians as they are, and not as one 
hopes they may become; for of itself this pure and simple fraternal 
love suffices— tiniim est nectssarium — and at that level it is to it 
alone, that one must bear witness). Such a life makes no sense 
unless it is an exclusively contemplative life, like that of the Little 
Brothers and Little Sisters of Jesus. There is what I call the first zone 
of behavior. 

The second zone of behavior is characterized, it seems to me, by 
the fact that a Christian who loves non-Christians in the way that I 
have tried to define, bears witness to this love by a work which 
makes it visible in the sphere of action, or of external activity. 

I am thinking here of all the works of mercy and of brotherly assist- 
ance that we can undertake, whether by ministering to the urgent 
needs created by misery, sickness, famine, etc., or by cooperating m 
the improvement of conditions of life and in the great effort accom- 
plished by the countries underdeveloped in the social, economic, and 


cultural order, in view of attaining the common level of a civilization 
that has become universal. Here, clearly, is an immense task which is 
already well under way. 

I am thinking also of the work, no less vast and no less important 
by which, in the intellectual order, scholars and specialists strive to 
know better the past and present of non-Christian civilizations (with- 
out forgetting people called primitive) — the social, moral and cultural 
structures of these areas of civilization, their special traditions, and 
above all their religion itself and their spirituality. Thus we find, and 
it is a true joy to state this, that Christian scholars are helping non- 
Christians to see more clearly into their own affairs and into what is 
closest to their hearts, and are succeeding in this much better than the 
pure rationalists. The work of Louis Massignon in respect to Islam has 
been exemplary from this point of view. (I take the liberty of adding, 
for those persons, however eminent, who remain insufficiently in- 
formed of the merits of the Summa theologica , that these days it is 
Thomists like Olivier Lacombe and Louis Gardet who are doing 
the most enlightened work in Indian and Islamic studies, and who are 
on terms of the most intimate and cordial friendship with the repre- 
sentatives of Indian and Moslem thought.) Besides, I see no reason 
why non-Christian scholars and specialists could not also help us, 
their opposite numbers, to gain a better insight into our proper affairs. 
For example, I wish that one of them would study, from his own 
point of view and in the light of his own traditions, St. John of the 
Cross for example or Pere Surin, just as Massignon studied Hallaj. I 
don't say that he would understand them better than Catholic theolo- 
gians, or that we would always agree with their interpretations. But I 
say it would give us a chance to widen our horizons and perhaps on 
certain points to renew our understanding of the problems involved. 

The third zone of behavior is that of the apostolate and the mission. 
Here again, it is through a work concerning the sphere of external ac- 
tivity, that the Christian who loves non-Christians in the way I have 
tried to define bears witness to this love. But this time we are dealing 
with the most exalted activity, the highest conceivable work of char- 
ity. For this activity responds to an express command of the Lord: 
Go teach all nations. It is the continuation of the preaching of Christ 
when he traveled the roads of Judea and Galilee to proclaim the 
kingdom of God. That the Truth should be known by men is the 



ardent desire of the eternal Truth descended on earth to assume our 
flesh. Moreover, to know the Truth, the Truth that frees, is the abso- 
lutely first need of the human being. Non in solo pane vivit 
homo. . . . No activity better serves man or testifies better to the 
fraternal love kindled in us by the Gospel than that by means of 
which Truth comes to make itself known to him, and illumines his 

Does this mean that" apostolic activity would be something better 
than the love from which it derives and which it manifests? Apostolic 
activity is what is highest in the order of activity. But no activity is 
higher and better than the love of charity, higher and better than 
agape. “ There is no work better or more necessary than love ” 7 

St. John of the Cross also said: "God makes use of nothing other 
than love /' 8 Not only the greatest missionaries, but all who are today 
called to missionary work have a better understanding of this; it is 
here that the new fire, the essential renewal announced and willed by 
the Council, influences missionary activity in its living works, rejuven- 
ating and reinvigorating it, but also raising new problems for it. Thus 
renewed, missionary work requires from now on that each one in- 
volved in it become aware of what was in the heart of a St. Francis 
Xavier or a Pere Lebbe. In other words, apostolic preaching must be 
rooted in the love of the non-Christian, loved primarily not as a po- 
tential convert, but for himself and for what he is— a member of 
Christ, at least potentially. Such a reversal of values in the depths of 
the soul, and therefore in techniques and methods of approach, is 
already an accomplished fact. There is not very much in common be- 
tween the ways the great missionary orders followed fifty years 
ago and those they follow today. I have no competence to discuss 
this matter, and it is not my subject. I would simply imagine that 
what brought this revolution about was the will to draw all the conse- 
quences from a truth of which no one is unaware— namely, that it is 
not his ministers but Jesus himself who converts souls by the hidden 
windings of his grace, so that preaching and teaching come to achieve 
rather than to start the secret motions awakened in souls by his love 
and the iove of his servants. 

7 St. John of the Cross, Cant. (2nd ed.), str. iS ( 19), Sitv. Ill, p. 361. 

8 Ibid., str. 27 (18), SJv. Ill, p. 356. 

7 * 



There is nothing simpler, and at bottom more ordinarily Chris- 
tian, than the inner renewal which has been the subject of all the 
preceding pages. Fifty years from now, one will doubtless be as- 
tonished to think that Christians could ever have behaved otherwise. 
Two short anecdotes may perhaps help us grasp to what extent there 
is, for those of u$ who were born in the nineteenth century or at the 
beginning of the twentieth, something really new. 

I knew a very celebrated writer. He was not a Catholic and his 
moral life was not very edifying. One day when I went to pay him a 
visit, he spoke to me of another great writer, a Catholic, who had been 
his friend. He told me how at the time when this friendship was 
formed he had considered himself duty bound, in fairness, to confide 
in that person, even at the risk of scandalizing him, the manner in 
which he was living. He later received letters from his friend assuring 
him that he now loved him all the more deeply. The letters were so 
beautiful and generous that the writer who told me all this had been 
overwhelmed by them. I can still see him opening a drawer of his 
writing table and showing me that bundle of letters. Though many 
years had passed, he wept when he showed them to me. But the 
Catholic writer— as sincere and generous as a man could be— was con- 
vinced that his absolutely first duty in charity toward this sinner lay in 
his doing everything in his power to bring him to the true light. He 
therefore set out, and with heart and soul, to try and convert him. In 
spite of long and patient efforts, he did not succeed. Concluding at 
last that his colleague was definitely incapable of being converted, 
what could he do, alas, but pass judgment against him and abandon 
him to the devil? This was hardly the kind of thing to soften the heart 
of his ex-friend, and better dispose him to receive the grace of God if 
some day it should come knocking more forcefully at the door of his 
soul. Doubtless the Catholic writer had his reasons, for the non-Cath- 
olic, in constant evasions, used a good many tricks of his own. (I am 
not sure that in telling me this story, he wasn't trying to win me over 
to his side by playing a little too strongly on my feelings.) But the 
fact remains that, in acting as he did, the Catholic had simply fol- 
lowed the line of behavior— the pattern currently accepted at that 



time in regard to relations between a believer and an unbeliever. They 
are both dead, and, please God, now reconciled. 

The second anecdote concerns me personally. Twenty years ago a 
friend of mine who was a great French theologian— and whose friend- 
ship has never faltered— told me one day that he had a bone to pick 
with me, and he didn't go any too gently about it. Just what kind of 
reproach was it? He was upset because whenever I dealt with a non- 
Christian, I always assultied that he was acting in good faith. But the 
contrary must be assumed, he maintained. Hadn't the New Law been 
promulgated? Hadn't the Word of God been proclaimed in almost 
every country on earth? Was grace lacking to anyone? When we spoke 
to non-Christians, it was a duty to truth to presuppose— save for 
exceptions (when, for example, a certain person was excused by that 
exceedingly rare thing called "invincible ignorance")— that they were 
not in good faith. 

Such an attitude completely failed to take into account the de- 
pendence of the human mind upon age-old traditions, cultural 
environment, and, broadly speaking, the deadweight of history. I 
don't believe there is anyone today who would accept the views of 
my friend. Twenty years ago they seemed self-evident to a theologian 
of high merit. They conformed to the line of behavior toward non- 
Christians, to the pattern still accepted at that time (but not for very 

On the contrary, it is clear that if we should presuppose (because 
all men are members of Christ, at least potentially) that the non- 
Christian we are speaking to doubtless has grace and charity— since 
we are in no position to judge the innermost heart— then we should 
equally presuppose that he is in good faith. (It can happen, naturally, 
that in certain cases one could have strong reasons for thinking that a 
particular individual, Christian or non-Christian, is in bad faith. But 
that will be the exception.) 


We would be making a big mistake, as X said in a preceding section, 
if we believed that men who are divided in their speculative convic- 
tions are thereby prevented from reaching a practical agreement of 



thought in regard to the principles that govern action. But we would 
be making a mistake at least as serious in the opposite direction if, on 
the pretext of making this practical agreement more secure, we tried 
to camouflage the irreducible oppositions that persist in the specula- 
tive order between the parties involved, by lying as to what is and by 
adapting the true to the false in order to make the dialogue more 
smoothly cordial, and more deceptively fruitful. 

The remark I made concerning practical agreement between men 
divided in the speculative order should be driven home even more 
forcefully (with pile drivers, if need be), when it comes to fostering 
brotherly love among men who subscribe to different philosophical 
or religious beliefs. This is the first condition of loyalty in the dialogue. 

The more a Christian— let us say also this time, the more a Catholic 
(for such a dialogue can and should also take place between Christians 
who are doctrinally separated)— the more a Christian, or a Catholic, 
gives an absolute primacy in his heart to a fully liberated brotherly 
love, and, in dealing with non-Catholics or non-Christians, sees them 
as they really are, members of Christ, at least potentially, the more 
firmly he must maintain his positions in the doctrinal order (I don't 
say he should brandish them at every turn), and must make clear the 
differences which, in the realm of what is true or false, separate him 
from these men he loves wholeheartedly. In acting thus, he will be 
honoring them. To do otherwise would be to betray Truth, which is 
above everything. 

We have to grant that this is not always easy, and can make things 
rather uncomfortable for him. Such is life. We must accept that. 

I said once to Jean Cocteau: We must have a tough mind and a 
tender heart , adding with a certain melancholy that the world is full 
of dried-up hearts and flabby minds. Beware of flabby minds in the 
ecumenical dialogue! 

Nevertheless, it is not this which I would like to insist on today, but 
rather the uncomfortable (more than uncomfortable) situation I was 
discussing of those poor men in whose souls love and truth should be 
served with an equal fidelity. (To put it more precisely, brotherly love 
and the love of the One who is the Truth.) Misericordia et veritas 
obviaverunt sibi . . . 

There is no use getting excited. The new age we are entering will put 
Catholics to a hard test. Doubtless, it will be for them the occasion of 



a very pure joy and exultation, because of the kind of epiphany of 
brotherly love which it will permit. But the price will have to be paid. 
There will likewise be an increase of suffering and heart rending 
principally because of this misericordia and this veritas which desire 
to meet and to embrace. Where? In heaven it is no problem. But in 
man's world it is something else, and we are men. 

To begin with, it is at the very core of brotherly love that inevitably 
we suffer in our hearty because those non-Christians whom we love 
like members of Christ, of the beloved Saviour, do not know Christ. 
There can be and certainly is much of truth in their baggage. But they 
do not know the Truth, the Truth that frees, and it is a great misfor- 
tune for them, and one great joy less for heaven and for Jesus. They 
continue to struggle with many chains, they still collide against many 
barriers along their road; there are for them still many traps in the 
shadows. Would we love them truly if we didn't suffer because of 
what they lack? The more fraternal love grows, the more this suffer- 
ing also grows. Clearly, if anyone delights in loving them, and receiv- 
ing the gift of their friendship in return, but without experiencing any 
of this suffering, there is something unreal about his love. 

One can see here— this is only a small marginal gloss which has 
slipped into my ever-friendly text by way of parenthesis— what a dis- 
tance there is between the very pure joy and exualtation I mentioned 
earlier and which have as their companion a faithful sorrow) and this 
natural joy, very natural (and to which no sorrow, certainly, comes to 
trouble the happy expansion), which is given us today to contemplate 
in quite a few of our Christian brothers, entranced to be able at last 
to rub their noses, all atremble with enthusiasm, with the noses of all 
the sons of Adam. 

Furthermore, and precisely because Christians and non-Christians 
move on different levels with regard to truth, seeing things in differ- 
ent lights more or less clouded by earthly vapors, it seems almost 
inevitable that, to the extent that mutual friendship develops be- 
tween them, we will see misunderstandings and suspicions arise. Will 
the Christian's non-Christian friend understand the meaning and the 
reason for that service to truth which his Christian friend maintains 
more than ever in the doctrinal order, hardening the edge, if he must, 
to avoid syncretism and confusion? Or will he take it for some incon- 


ceivable arrogance or return to "fanaticism 7 '? The slightest blunder 
will cost dear. 

The Christian respects and cherishes the distinction between the 
things that are Caesar's and those that are God's even when, acting on 
his own and without committing the Church, he gives himself most 
wholeheartedly to his temporal mission, and when the Church her- 
self does everything in her power, while remaining within her own 
sphere (which is that of the spiritual) to help the world overcome 
the difficulties it faces in its own order. But will the non-Christian 
(or even the non-Catholic) also understand the meaning and the 
reason for this distinction, and not be scandalized because in certain 
instances, the Christian (or the Catholic) must maintain at all costs 
the autonomy of the spiritual in regard to the temporal, and refuse 
to transform Christianity into a kind of theocratic agency charged 
with assuring the well-being of the world, universal peace, pay raises, 
and free room and board for all? How many explanations will have to 
be given, which will surely not always be recognized as valid? 

Finally, and most importantly, will it not be at the cost of a rather 
painful overstretching in the very soul of the Christian, and of a vigil- 
ance which can rarely permit any slackening, and a struggle against 
often subtle temptations, and with what renunciations, and some- 
times sacrifices, that can be assured, somehow or other, the double 
and unique fidelity to which he is bound, on one hand, to truth in the 
order of intelligence and theological faith, and, on the other, to broth- 
erly love (which understands all things, said St. Paul, and forgives 
all things), when it comes to our relations with our neighbor, and this 
neighbor himself sets at naught what we most cherish? All the assist- 
ance of grace will be needed. The love of the Cross will be needed. To 
sum up, what I have been attempting to suggest is nothing but the 
law of the cross , of that holy Cross which it is not in fashion to men- 
tion today from pulpits. But the fashion in question, like all fashions, 
is a thing of the moment. In any case, this law is there , whatever one 
does or says. 

Since I'm about to put my foot in it with all the frankness I obliged 
myself to, and perhaps with an involuntary insolence (I certainly 
hope not), why should I not speak the whole truth? The task which 
the new age we are entering expects of Christians is so difficult that 
they can not possibly accomplish it unless there are multiplied, in the 


very heart of and throughout the world, constellations of spiritual 
energy composed of humble stars invisibly shining, each a contem- 
plative soul given over to the life of prayer. In each of them (this is 
the classic notion of “infused contemplation”) the gifts of the Holy 
Spirit place the theological virtues in a state where they act in a higher 
and more perfect way, and they elevate the whole activity, including 
love itself, to a “supra-human mode.” Without contemplative love 
and infused prayer, and tile participation of souls given over to them 
in the redeeming Cross, and without the invisible support which they 
bring to the work of all in the mystical Body, and to that strange 
traffic (not lacking in irony) which Providence carries on here be- 
low, the task demanded of Christians, of all Christians, would be too 
heavy, and the great hope which is rising would be in vain. This hope 
will not be in vain, for the humble stars I am speaking of have begun 
secretly to glimmer; there are already more of them than one realizes 
strewn across the world. 

Ash Wednesday, February 23, 1966 


In the previous chapter, I observed that the true new fire, the essen- 
tial renewal, will be an inner renewal. I tried to sketch as best I could 
(doubtless not too well) what this inward renewal implies in the 
order of brotherly love, especially between Christians and non- 
Christians. I would like to attempt a similar sketch concerning the 
requests (and worries) of the human intellect, and what one may call 
(not without some temerity on the part of an old peasant) the 
affairs of the kingdom of God. This chapter and the next will be de- 
voted to the first of these attempts. 


The requests (and worries) of the intelligence— they are real 
enough. Even in the mass media we find a hint of them. We are, 
after all, animals endowed with reason: hence heirs to quite a few 
worries and illusions, and a good many demands as well, both exacting 
and inevitable. The renewals to which we are summoned by the great 
chime of the Council depend above all on an inspiration and spiritual 
elan awakened in the heaven of the soul. But such an inspiration and 
such an clan necessarily entail and require a vast labor of reason, re- 
newing its own perspectives and grasping more thoroughly the articu- 
lations of the real. Only then can they recast our ordinary regime of 
thought and behavior. For this, neither mystical experience, nor faith, 
however desirable the first, and necessary the other, can suffice; both 
demand to be accompanied by an indispensable renewal in the order 
of intelligence. And if we stop to consider the present condition of 



8 5 

the intelligence, we will see (yes, we have been chained up longer and 
more tightly than we like to think) that what such a renewal requires 
is, first and foremost, a breaking of barriers and chains, a liberation: 
liberation of the intelligence itself, and liberation in hearts of a love 
which has been terribly repressed and which cries out from the 
depths of the abyss— the love of Truth. I say “in hearts” because it is 
a question of love, and I say “love”— love of that truth which is the 
life of the intellect— because it ft desire or the will, whose primary act 
is loving, which puts into operation all our powers, and hence also our 

Unless one loves the truth , one is not a man. And to love the truth 
is to love it above everything, because we know that Truth is God 

Christ said to Pilate that he came into the world to bear witness to 
the Truth. 

It is by faith that we hold the supreme Truth. Yet faith itself calls, 
be it in the unconscious, for a certain fermentation, a certain in- 
quiry, a certain stirring and inner working of reason; and it normally 
presupposes (I don't say in each of our individual histories, but in the 
normal order of things considered in themselves) rational preliminar- 
ies, such as the natural certitude of the existence of God : 1 a certitude 
which is “natural” in the sense of spontaneous (then it is due to that 
kind of instinct of reason which is common sense), and also in the 
sense of acquired by the firm and compelling (because properly eluci- 
dated) ways of reason when it knows unshakably. (And if the first 
kind of certitude is valid, it is because it can flow into the second, 
which is that of developed and fully adult reason.) Thus faith itself 
demands to be completed by a certain intellectual grasp— inevitably 
imperfect in regard to the term to be attained, but altogether firm in 
regard to the structures of human knowledge— of the unfathomable 
mystery of God and divine things. Credo ut intelligam. This is called 
theology. And theology cannot take shape in us without the help of 
that natural wisdom of which human reason is capable, whose name 
is philosophy. In short, faith itself entails and requires a theology and 

1 Many other truths of a purely rational order have also a necessary connection 
with the data of faith and are presupposed or implied by them: for example, the 
very axiom that man is made for truth, and also the existence of the sensible 
world, the existence of free will; the spirituality and immortality of the human 
•oul. Such a list could be prolonged. 



a philosophy. Oh, I realize all this is quite regrettable because it is 
difficult and fatiguing. It would be so much nicer to be a front-line 
Christian going to Mass every Sunday (no longer, of course, because 
he has to— which is now regarded as old-fashioned— but because he 
knows it is the right thing to do) and then instructing himself peace- 
fully by radio and television, and by reading picture magazines and a 
few “demythizing" paperbacks. 

I, too, feel regret— for meanly egotistical reasons (a philosopher's 
life is not exactly a bed of roses). But that is the way it is; there's 
nothing we can do about it. That's the way it is because man is what 
he is. And in man there is not merely sex with all its nasty tricks, as 
we might be tempted to believe (doubtless against the author's 
wishes) on reading what a friendly colleague 2 calls “the kind of 
basically sexual ontology" proposed by a much admired moralist with 
little but his name to seduce me— what a beautiful name! In man 
there is also the invisible intellect, which besets him much more 

But what sense is there in all this? Philosophy and theology— aren't 
they but Chinese curios? Or should I say (for the sake of soft ecu- 
menism , 3 perhaps afraid that the expression might offend the Chi- 
nese) medievalist curios— which have become unthinkable for a man 
of today? The word soul y it was recently observed, is suffering the 
same fate; “most of the members of the 'intelligentsia' feel that this 
word no longer has any meaning. ... As for the word spirituality , 
it no longer excites anything but derision on the part of serious 
thinkers." 4 

And the same can be said of the word truth . Well, it is immaterial 
to me, because people who think in this way, no matter how numer- 
ous, simply do not exist . When Villiers de l'lsle-Adam happened to 
find himself in front of one of them (they were not lacking in his 
time either), he walked up to him and, examining his face as closely as 
possible and with the greatest of care, said, “I'm trying my best, I 
look at you— I dont see you." 

Besides, there is in all this a strange error of fact. The need for these 

2 Dr. Marcel Eck, in an open letter to the author of Myst&re humain de la la 
Sexualiti. [The author in question is abb6 Oraison — Translator's addition.] 

* Do I need to point out that I am not speaking of true ecumenism, which is 
certainly not soft? 

4 Stanislas Fumet, in an interview published by La Table Ronde f March, 1966. 



medieval curios, repressed as it may be, is actually enormous in 
today’s world. The aberrant forms to which such a need resorts for its 
gratification (just think of the large circulation of the review, Planete) 
are themselves proof of it. And speaking seriously, those who have a 
genuine experience of today's youth know that, as soon as, maybe in 
passing, the slightest spark gives them an opportunity to release what 
smoulders within their mind, then a thirst for philosophical knowl- 
edge, and perhaps even mofe,Tor the theological knowledge, manifests 
itself in them. I am an old hermit, but I know many young people, 
and I am also acquainted with a number of intelligent professors, 
who are capable of transmitting the spark— and who have told me 
what subjects arouse the keenest interest among their students, and 
make the latter ask the most anxious questions. 

But I am not forgetting that, in this book, it is mainly Christians I 
am talking to. It is with the Gospel, then, that we should properly 


What do the apostles tell us? 

The Spirit is the Truth, St. John says . 5 And again: 

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and 
from Jesus Christ the Father s Son, cV dXyOe la akawy, in truth and 


No greater joy can I hare than this, to hear that my children follow 
the truth* 

So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in 
the Truth. 8 

We are of the Truth ® 

And Paul: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all 
ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness hold 
truth captive of injustice . 10 

6 . 

• llohn 3:19. 
10 Rom. 1 : 10. 



Those who are to perish , because they did not receive the love of 
the Truth which would have saved them . 11 

All shall be condemned who did not believe in the Truth 12 

God our Savior r who desires all men to be saved and to come to the 
knowledge of the Truth 13 

Charity takes its joy in the truths (A joy in which it is in com- 
munion With the truth , <rvvx^P e 1 T V aXrjOela.) 

Put on the new man , created after the likeness of God in right- 
eousness and the holiness of Truth 15 

And James: Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of 
truth 16 

And what does Jesus tell us? I am the Way , and the Truth , and the 
Life 17 

For this I was born , and for this I have come into the world , to bear 
witness to the Truth . Everyone who is of the Truth hears my voice 18 

God is Spirit , and those who worship him must worship in spirit 
and truth 19 

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth . 20 

The Spirit of Truth , who proceeds from the Father 21 

When he comes , the Spirit of Truth will teach you all the truth 22 

Father, sanctify them in the Truth; thy word is Truth . . . And 
for their sake I sanctify myself , that they also may be sanctified in the 
Truth 23 

If you abide in my word , you will truly be my disciples , and you will 
know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free 24 

11 2 Thessal. 2:10. 

12 Ibid., 2:12. 

13 1 Tim. 2:4. 

14 1 Cor. 13:6. 

15 Ephes. 4:24. 

16 James 1:18. 

17 John 14:6. 

18 Ibid., 18:37. 

19 Ibid., 4:24. 

20 Ibid., 14:17. 

21 Ibid., 15:26. 

22 Ibid., 16:13. 

23 Ibid., 17:17, 19. 

24 Ibid., 8:32. Here are a good many citations drawn from the fourth Gospel. 
There is no reason to be surprised at the fact, since the Synoptics have gathered 
together, to transmit them in writing (as Luke clearly suggests) the logia of Jesus 


3 9 

And what do we read in the infinitely venerable Prologue to the 
fourth Gospel? He [the Word] was the True light, that enlightens 
every man coming into the world. 2 * 

And the Word became flesh, and he dwelt among us, and we have 
beheld his glory , glory which comes from the Father to the only Son, 
full of grace and truth 26 

For the Law was given through Moses; but Grace and Truth came 
through Jesus ChrisL 27 ' ■ 

The subsistent Truth which is God, and which Christ came to re- 
veal, and the truth which is a participation in it here below— and in 
which we should follow, as St. John says, 28 and which makes us true 
in love (E plies., 4, 5)— and in which charity rejoices, 29 — we see what 
a place truth holds in the Gospel. 

It is impossible for a Christian to be a relativist. 80 Those who make 
the attempt have no chance of succeeding. Let them be pardoned, 
after all. There is an even better excuse than "invincible ignorance/' 
and that is what Baudelaire called "la betise au front de taureau,” bull- 
headed stupidity. 

But the texts we have just been reading call for more appropriate 
commentary. The truth of Faith is the infinitely transcendent truth of 
the mystery of God. And, nevertheless, this infinitely transcendent 
truth, God fias willed that it be expressed (and here comes the 
prophets of Israel, the teaching of Christ, and the definitions of the 
Church) in human concepts and words. This is characteristic of 
the Judeo-Christian revelation. Revelation is not unformulatable; it is 
formed. It is so because the Second Person of the Trinity is the Word, 

and the other recollections engraved in the memory of the disciples and the very 
earliest Christian community, whereas the fourth Gospel, as emerges clearly from 
its tone and style, is the work of a man bringing his absolutely personal witness 
(there were reasons for John’s having been the preferred disciple) who had seized 
up and retained many deeper and more precious traits on which the common 
attention had not been fixed. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the epistles of 
Paul and James sound, on the question we are dealing with here, in a manner 
exactly similar. 

26 John 1 19. 

26 Ibid., 1:14. 

2 * Ibid., 1:17. 

28 Cf. above (n. 7), 3 John 4. 

29 Cf. above (n. 14), 1 Cor. 1 3:6. 

90 Unless he is a physicist. I am obviously not talking here of relativist physics 
or Ein^teimaxi relativity. 

9 ° 


and because the Word was made flesh. The concepts and words that 
transmit revelation to us are at once true (they make what is hidden 
in God actually known to us) and essentially mysterious (in aenig- 
mate : they remain disproportionate to the Reality which they attain 
without either circumscribing or comprehending it). 

That is what teaches a philosopher to respect human intelligence, 
the concepts and the other instruments it fashions in order to lay hold 
of things, and of which the prophets of Israel and He whom they 
were announcing have made use of to open doors against which phil- 
osophers bump their noses. It is in the course of meditating on this 
that, once upon a time, a fervent Bergsonian began to perceive the 
weakness of that critique of the concept upon which Bergson laid so 
much stress, and which, after all, he himself belied in writing his great 

And it is in meditating on this, that the Christian blesses the ob- 
scurity of Faith, through which the absolute Truth, which is seen only 
in glory, enters already, in this poor earthly life, into companionship 
with him. For it is in this holy obscurity that he is able to worship in 
spirit and in truth. 

So much for my first remark. The second is brought to my mind 
with respect to the second epistle of St. John, where the apostle calls 
down on us grace, mercy, and peace in truth and charity. Just how 
do truth and charity come to terms with one another? In everyday 
practice this problem creates quite a few difficulties for us, poor 
fellows that we are, and likewise, as I noted in the previous chapter, no 
small inner pains. Yet in principle the agreement in question is 
perfectly normal . 31 

Charity has to do with persons; truth, with ideas and with reality 
attained through them. Perfect charity toward our neighbor and 
complete fidelity to the truth are not only compatible; they call for 
one another. 

In the fraternal dialogue, the deeper love is, the more each one 
feels bound to declare, without diminution or lenitive salve what he 
holds to be true (otherwise he would wrong, not only truth as he sees 
it, but also the spiritual dignity of his neighbor). 

And the more freely I affirm what I hold as true, the more I should 

31 See my essays, “Qui est mon prochain?” in Principes d’une politique hu * 
maniste, and “Tol6rance et Vdrite” in Le Philosophe dans la cite. 


9 1 

love whoever denies it— I don’t have toward my neighbor the toler- 
ance-demanded by brotherly love unless his right to exist, to seek 
truth, and to express it according to his lights, and never to act or 
speak against his conscience is recognized and respected by me at the 
very instant when this pig-headed neighbor— always worthy of love, as 
dense as he may seem— takes sides against the very truths which are 
dearest to me. 

If I truly love my ‘neighbor, it will of course (I have already said as 
much) be painful to me to see him deprived of the truth I happen to 
know. For, all things considered, it is truth I must love above every- 
thing, while at the same time loving my neighbor as myself. If my 
neighbor is in error, it is a pity for him, and for truth, too. How to es- 
cape suffering from this? That is part of the inherent delight of the 
fraternal dialogue. On the other hand, the latter would completely 
degenerate if the fear of displeasing my brother got the better of my 
duty to declare the truth. (To do so, moreover, will not grieve too 
much my dear fellow being if I am not too stupid about it, and if I 
really have in my heart the feelings I owe to him.) 

Let us beware of those brotherly dialogues in which everyone is in 
raptures while listening to the heresies, blasphemies, stuff and non- 
sense of the other. They are not brotherly at all. It has never been 
recommended to confuse “loving” with “seeking to please.” Saltavit 
et placuit, she gamboled and frolicked and captivated them all. 
Salome pleased Herod’s guests; I can hardly believe she was burning 
with love for them. As for poor John the Baptist (who did not dia- 
logue in his prison, except with his Master), she certainly did not 
envelop him in her love. 

My third remark will have to do with efficacy and truth. In Chapter 
3 I spoke at some length about the world and the contrasting mean- 
ings of this word. The Church knows the worth, dignity and beauty 
of the world which God has made; she wants its good— its temporal as 
well as its spiritual good. She embraces it in the divine agape she has 
received from on high. She strives with all her heart to help it advance 
in the line of its earthly progress, toward its natural ends and toward 
better and higher conditions for mankind; she places at its disposal 
the treasures of light and compassion which have been confided to 
her. But she is not in the service of the world. She keeps herself from 
conforming to its lusts, its prejudices, or its passing fancies. In this 


sense, old Chesterton was right in saying: "The Catholic Church is 
the only thing which spares man the degrading slavery of being a child 
of his times.” And with incomparably greater authority, it was also 
said, "Do not be conformed to this world.” 32 It has always been 
obvious, from the way in which the "world” St. Paul was speaking 
about shifts for itself, that its supreme norm is efficacy— in other 
words, success. The supreme norm for the Church is truth. 

The supreme norm which the "world” obeys, the supreme law of 
efficacy, threatens to impose itself with tyranny more demanding than 
ever in the technocratic civilization we are entering today. That is why 
men will have such desperate need of the witness which the Church 
renders to the absolute primacy of truth. 

There is much one could say on the subject of efficacy. In truth, 
nothing in nature, especially in the living being, and even more so in 
the human being, is inefficacious. Neither idleness, nor even laziness, 
nor rest are inefficacious, except when they take place at the wrong 
moment. Ancient Chinese wisdom knew the value of empty spaces in 
music and design as well as in the art of living. Above all, there are 
different levels of efficacy; I say this in passing, perhaps I will get a 
chance to come back to this. The fact is that whatever is meant only 
for efficacy, a limitless efficacy, is precisely what is least really effica- 
cious (because nature and life are a hidden order, not a mere un- 
leashing of force), whereas what seems least efficacious (if it belongs 
to an order superior to that of activities bound to matter) is what 
most possesses genuine efficacy. 

But the efficacy I am discussing here pertains to the energies man 
deploys and uses in the order proper to his nature as an animal en- 
dowed with reason, thanks to his brawn and especially to his brain. 
To neglect such efficacy would be a childish nonsense we needn't fear 
the world will be guilty of. Nor does the Church fall into such non- 
sense. That is why, at each great moment of her history, she renews 
not merely her means of action, but her awareness of the vital sources 
on which they depend (she takes her time with it; Aristotle remarked 
that the magnanimous move at a slow step). Today the Church is at 
one of these great moments of renewal. And she knows perfectly well 
the risks involved. (Have no fear, she will surmount them.) 

Can we say as much for a number of her clerics and faithful? It is 

32 Rom. 12:2. 



toward them that I now turn my old hermit's gaze, not sorry more- 
over, do put aside for a moment the world and its false pretenses— but 
am I actually putting them aside that much? That's what bothers 
me. Nevertheless, the viewpoint I would now like to adopt is no 
longer that of the assistance and cooperation which Christianity 
brings to the world and the temporal order from on high, but rather 
what Christianity is confronted with in the spiritual order itself, 
which is its own proper" onrder. " 

There is, nowadays, among a good many Christians and even, 
without their clearly realizing it perhaps, among an alarming number 
of priests and consecrated people (it is these clerics, above all, whom 
I have in mind), a marked tendency to give efficacy primacy over 
truth. What does it matter if the means one uses set the mind on a 
wrong course, ask group techniques and group psychology 83 to do 
better than the theological virtues, the gregarious instinct to do better 
than the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the flowering ( epanouissement ) of 
nature to do better than humility, the engagements or commitments 
(preferably made in common) to replace the “egocentric" search for 
intimacy with God, the joy of sharing in the world's labors to replace 
the search for the perfection of charity and for the love of the cross, 
mass action to take the place of that “go into your chamber and shut 
the door and pray to your Father who dwells in secret /' 34 which 
Jesus Christ had prescribed— for another age, was it?— community 
celebrations to cast aside the search for silence and solitude— the lat- 
est fables and quackeries to give a little vitality to the catechism— and, 
above all, the generous expenditure of self in external works and in an 
incessant dialogue with everybody to free us from any attempt at 
intellectual concentration? What does it matter, once these means are 
supposedly dynamic— that's the only thing that counts— and serve 
efficaciously to gather men together in the fold of the Good Shepherd? 

Precisely here lies the flagrant absurdity, since the Good Shepherd 
is precisely Truth itself; and since the means are nothing unless they 
are proportioned to the end— that is, in the present case, unless they 

ss Mind you, I have nothing against group psychology or the flowering of nature, 
nor against commitments, the joy of sharing in the world's labors, mass action, 
community celebrations or dialogue. I am speaking of the use (for which these 
things are in no way intended) which certain people, not too rare at this stage, 
w kh to make them serve. 

Matt. 6:6. 



are means of truth; and since, in the domain of the kingdom of God, 
it is truth which is the source and measure of efficacy itself. 

Actually, in so far as the tendency I have pointed out prevails, the 
souls of men are being exposed to a fine case of inner disintegration, 
and there is a risk of their becoming spiritual cripples who cannot 
easily be cured. 

There, carried to its extreme limit, you see the troubled and un- 
happy “faith” of pure fideism, and the supernatural Truth (or what's 
left of it) lying in poor people like a stone at the bottom of a pond, 
but no longer vitally received by a living being. In their intellect, 
every link with this stranger has been severed. Their dismasted reason, 
robbed of the inner formations and structures which it naturally de- 
mands, floats adrift in religious ignorance, and (when they are men 
whose cultural level would have normally required a few certitudes, 
however elementary, in the matter of knowledge) in a total skepti- 
cism or theological and philosophical indifferentism. 

Who's talking about efficacy! The end result would be the defec- 
tion of a great multitude. The day when efficacy would prevail over 
truth will never come for the Church, for then the gates of hell would 
have prevailed against her. 


It is normal that after all this, I should feel called upon to say a few 
words concerning the capacity of human reason. 

How, in fact, poor imbeciles that we are, could we know through 
faith and with full certitude the supernaturally revealed Truth to 
which man's mind is not proportioned, if we were not able to know 
with full certitude the truths of a rational order to which man's mind 
is proportioned? I have in mind philosophic truths, which are purely 
rational— let us understand this “purely” in contradistinction to what 
lies above reason, but of course not to what lies below it (for all 
knowledge naturally acquired by man proceeds from sense experi- 
ence, and, if there is an insane asylum among the pure spirits of 
heaven, it is only there that we can see Kant's Pure Reason in opera- 
tion). I also have in mind theological truths, which are rational but 
whose object is superior to reason, and which proceed from the light 



of faith, but not without the theologian's having to use, in their serv- 
ice, philosophic truths which emerge from the experience of the 
senses through the agency of the intellect. 

Grace perfects nature and does not destroy it. It is essential for man 
to aspire to truth, and he has the capacity to reach it by his own 
powers— even if it be in stumbling and zigzagging along the way, a 
way which is endless— in the things which depend on sense experience 
or to which such experience gives us indirect access. So much for 
philosophy and the swarming of sciences. Man also has the capacity— 
and here we are speaking of theology— to gain a still imperfect but 
genuine and authentic knowledge of divine things when his natural 
forces work in the light of faith, which quickens them and raises 
them above their ordinary level. This is my point Number 1. (Please 
excuse me for appearing to give a lecture. It's certainly not my 

Let us move on to point Number 2. Since there are truths of a 
rational order in regard to which man's understanding can acquire 
certitude, does it not follow that an organic network of fundamental 
truths— in other words, a doctrine (why, certainly, so much the 
worse for the reigning prejudices), a doctrine which is essentially 
grounded in truth , 35 is possible (in the philosophical order, and 
likewise, when it is a question of acquiring in a rational way some 
understanding of the mystery revealed, in the theological order)? 
One can regard the thing as improbable, but that is not the point. 
The point is to know whether, of its nature, it is possible. 

The affirmative answer compels recognition, if one is not too much 
afraid of professors. I know very well that all present-day philosophers 
(almost all, to be more precise) are speaking in the opposite way. But 
I don't care. Besides, they are not philosophers, as I will soon have 
occasions to explain. 

We have surely to admit that— since man is made for truth— a doc- 
trine essentially grounded in truth must be possible for our mind on 
condition, however (and this goes further than one thinks), that it 
not be the work of a single man (a thousand times too weak to 

35 Every doctrine, even the most erroneous, is based on some truth. I call essen- 
tiariy grounded in truth a doctrine grounded in truth in its essential or fundamental 


manage properly, in three or four decades, so enormous, and so 
enormously risky a business), but that it rely, with a proper respect for 
common sense and common intelligence, on the efforts of the human 
mind from the most remote times, and embrace the labor of genera- 
tions of thinkers with contrasting views— all of this being one day 
brought together and unified by one or several men of genius (sup- 
posing they unexpectedly come along among the contingencies of 
history) . 

My present intention is not to quarrel with the idea, so widespread 
in today's world, that the pluralism of philosophic doctrines is some- 
thing normal de hire. It is rather to dispel a misunderstanding and to 
show that, contrary to what is often imagined, what I have just 
affirmed, namely that a doctrine essentially grounded in truth is 
possible , can only be understood correctly if we recognize at the same 
time the pluralism of philosophic doctrines, I don't say as normal 
de iure , but as bound to happen or normal de facto : by reason of the 
conditions under which human subjectivity is working among phil- 

On the one hand, it is, to be sure, nonsense to imagine that a 
philosophic doctrine grounded in truth would by the same token be, 
or pretend to be, a finished or perfect doctrine, nay more, that it 
would contain or claim to contain, all ready-made, the answers to all 
the questions which will arise in the course of time. Doubtless one can 
say (it is a suitable abbreviation— flattering, certainly, to the partisans 
of this possible doctrine; exasperating to the rest) that a doctrine es- 
sentially grounded in truth is a “true" doctrine. But we must quickly 
remove all risk of misunderstanding. What do the words “a true phi- 
losophy" or “a true theology" mean? They signify that since its 
principles are true, and ordered in a manner which conforms to the 
real, such a (possible) philosophy or such a (possible) theology is 
thus equipped to advance from age to age (if those who profess it are 
not too lazy or complacent) toward a greater measure of truth. But 
there are an infinity of truths that this possible true doctrine has not 
yet attained; and, such as it presents itself at a given time, it can itself 
admit of a number of accidental errors. 

Assuming it exists, it is not enough to say that it is never finished 
and should always progress. In order to free itself from the limitations 



inherent in the mentality of a given cultural epoch, such a doctrine 
necessarily implies a perpetual process of self-remoulding, as is the 
case with living organisms. It has a duty to understand intelligently 
the various systems which develop from one age to another in opposi- 
tion to it, to discover their generative intuition, and to rescue the 
truths which they hold captive. Now, given the conditions (hardly 
splendid, it goes without saying) in which human subjectivity is at 
work, it is certainly -to 1)e “feared that the adherents of this possible 
doctrine grounded in truth will more or less neglect the duty I have 
just spoken of, and likewise the aforementioned process of self- 

On the other hand— given always the famous conditions in which 
human subjectivity is at work— it is inevitable that in every epoch a 
certain number of minds, devoted primarily to research, and fasci- 
nated by this or that particular truth they have discovered (with, 
ordinarily, the fresh supply of some error), will give rise to other 
systems which clash more or less violently with the admittedly possi- 
ble doctrine grounded in truth and which will succeed each other 
from age to age. 

The minds I am speaking of will be burned out by the particular 
truth they have discovered, and which it will be up to the possible 
doctrine grounded in truth to rescue and deliver in a coherent uni- 
verse of thought. Yet they will have contributed effectively, at times 
splendidly (but then beware of the after-effects of their prestige) to 
the progress of philosophy. 

Tlius, as I just indicated, one sees how to recognize the possibility 
of a doctrine essentially grounded in truth, but which advances 
slowly (it is, by hypothesis, a common work, which embraces in its 
preparation a human experience that goes back to remotest times, 
and is called upon, by the same token— once formed, and supposing 
all goes well— to grow ceaselessly through some common effort), to 
recognize, I say, the possibility of such a doctrine essentially grounded 
in truth is, at the same time, to recognize as inevitable or normal de 
facto (by reason of the human subject) the existence of other doc- 
trines which— each one an individual work, and, as such, ephemeral, 
though a Descartes or a Hegel was able to influence several centuries— 


will mark, in regard to a certain aspect of the immense unknown, a 
more rapid advance, yet paid for at great cost. 36 

There is obviously a third point, which is no longer concerned with 
the possibility of a doctrine (philosophical or theological) grounded 
in truth, but (that is when they will attack me) with the existence of 
such a doctrine. Is the existence of such a doctrine probable? Cer- 
tainly not, given the preceding considerations. But the improbable 
sometimes happens. I am saving this third part for the next chapter. 


I intend to speak now in a way that will perhaps seem a trifle I 

arrogant. But when it comes to absolutely essential matters that have I 

been ignored by an intellectually degraded epoch, and when one is 1 
dealing with the great idols of the day (venerated, moreover, by a 
great many thinkers, some of whom are first class and deserve esteem 
and respect, even admiration— a qualified admiration), it is one’s duty 
toward what is highest in the world to use the knife (and there is no 
point in being too gentle). Now that I have pronounced this mod- 
est preamble, I will resume my natural tone, and the course of my 

My few words on the capacity of reason have taken longer than I 
had wanted them to. I will now ask those who do me the honor of 
glancing at these pages to kindly re-read the Gospel texts I collected j 
earlier on the subject of Truth. 

The truth of which these texts speak, and which sets us free, does 
it push us back into the inner prison where we supposedly would be 
confined in company with the ideas of our mind? In fact, the truth of 
divine revelation throws us to the heart of He who is— and of what is , 1 

with an absolute violence which pulverizes any claim to make our 
mind the rule of what it knows, or to make what it knows a product 
of its own innate forms organizing phenomena (or indeed, as is , 

s® In the same way we understand how those who see in the development of 
philosophy only a succession of individual works will be brought to consider as 
necessary de iure (as if it were demanded by the object itself) a doctrinal pluralism 
which is doubtless indeed normal (from the point of view of the philosophizing 
subject, and given the human condition), but only normal de facto, or in point of 
fact inevitable. 



readily believed in our days, simply a phenomenon which makes sense 
for us through our experience of ourselves). The Bible and the 
Gospel radically exclude any kind of idealism in the philosophic sense 
of the word. I noted that in my first chapter. 

The Almighty God who created the world, and whose voice Moses 
heard, was he owing his existence and his glory to the mind that knew 
him? And the people this God chose for himself, and the land to 
which he led them, with itt vines, its olive trees and its corn— were all 
these men and all these things which the hand can touch and the eye 
see, objects which have shape or consistency only in dependence of 
the mind that knows them? And the Word which descended to take 
flesh and human nature in a virgin of Israel, does the Gospel ask us to 
believe in this Word, and the flesh and human nature it made its own, 
as in mere ideas of our mind? And Christ preaching along the roads, 
and the enemies through whose midst he passed, and the mountain 
from which they sought to hurl him, and the children he blessed, and 
the lilies of the field he admired, and the sins which he took upon 
himself, and the love with which he loves us, is all this grasped by our 
intellect as being, to say, like Schopenhauer, “my representation"? 
And when Jesus teaches his disciples and says to them, for example, 
“I and the Father are one", 37 or “when the Paraclete comes, whom 
I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds 
from the Father, he will bear witness to me," 88 do the terms of these 
propositions come from a priori synthetic judgments subsuming the 
data of experience (no, that won’t do), or do they express an Idea of 
Reason in which a postulate of practical Reason obliges us to believe? 
(That won’t do either.) In what drawer of the Critique, then, must 
we put the terms of the assertions uttered by the Lord? Or should we 
see in the thinking-master who still reigns over the world of profes- 
sors, what he in fact was: an elderly meditative clockmaker laboriously 
tracing, in his head and on paper, the outline of the mechanisms of a 
transcendental clock destined to make the stars move in their courses? 

The Judeo-Cliristian revelation is the strongest, the most insolently 
self-assured testimony rendered to the reality in itself of being— the 
being of things, and Being subsisting by itself— I say being dwelling in 
the glory of existence in total independence of the mind that knows 

87 John 10:30. 

88 John 15:26. 



it. Christianity professes with a tranquil impudence what in the 
philosophical vocabulary is known as realism. I said previously that a 
Christian can not be a relativist. One must say, and this goes much 
further, that a Christian can not be an idealist. 

Nor can a philosopher be an idealist. I appear to be voicing an 
enormity, but it is an axiomatic truth I am stating. Of course I am not 
challenging the great thinkers of India, they lived in a mental regime 
where religion, rite, mystique and metaphysics were all mixed to- 
gether. I am not thinking of Plato either, for whom reality in itself had 
passed into the eternal Ideas (this was but a displacement, though a 
formidable one, of the life-center of philosophy, and a great intuition 
wrongly conceptualized). To him philosophy owes the flash of light- 
ning which gave birth to it, and the propensity to go astray from 
which it might have died. It is on Descartes, the father of modern 
idealism, that I have designs, and on the whole series of his heirs, 
who, while each of them subjected this system to some mutation, 
have followed an evolutive curve of an irresistible internal logic. 

All these men begin with thought alone, and there they remain, 
whether they deny the reality of things and of the world (Descartes 
still believed in it, but on account of a wave of the magic wand by the 
God of the cogito ), or whether, in some way or another, they resorb 
this reality into thought. What does this mean? They impugn from 
the outset that very fact in which thought gets firmness and consis- 
tency, and without which it is a mere dream — I mean the reality to 
be known and understood, which is here , seen, touched, seized by the 
senses, and with which an intellect which belongs to a man, not to an 
angel, has directly to deal: the reality about which and starting with 
which a philosopher is born to question himself: if he misses the start 
he is nothing. They impugn the absolutely basic foundation of philo- 
sophic knowledge and philosophical research. They are like a logician 
who would deny reason, a mathematician who would deny unity and 
duality, a biologist who would deny life. From the moment they set 
out, they have turned their back on philosophic knowledge and 
philosophical research. They are not philosophers. 

In saying this, I certainly don't mean that a philosopher should dis- 
miss them, or consider them charletans. Their contribution to the 
history of thought has been immense. They have rendered consider- 



able services to philosophy. They have obliged philosophers to be- 
come more clearly aware of the care they should devote to the theory 
of knowledge and the critical examination of its problems, it is im- 
portant to read and study them with the greatest of care, an eager 
interest in the way their minds work, a vivid curiosity concerning 
their enigmatic ways of approach, and an odd but almost tender 
sympathy for their research. I have spent a good deal of time absorb- 
ing what they wrote. Desea rtes'was an enemy of whom I was singu- 
larly fond. I was charmed by Berkeley; I narrowly missed being won 
over by Spinoza (at twenty I didn't know how much he depended on 
Descartes). I have admired the implacable bitterness of Hume and 
the slightly too facile genius of Leibniz. I gave extensive lectures on 
Kant which taught me a good deal. Auguste Comte has given me 
some rather uncharitable joys for which I am always grateful. I cannot 
say as much for Hegel, even though I have passed long hours in his 
company and though he was the greatest genius among them— and 
the maddest, for he was certain of having brought himself and the 
Spirit to the pinnacle of wisdom. And then there was Bergson, who, 
contrary to the others, really was a philosopher and holds no place in 
the line of descent; he endeavored to break it. (As I wish to be 
polite, I would rather say nothing about the logical positivists, who 
hold a nice place in the line.) After Bergson, everybody readily re- 
entered the Cartesian lineage, at the thin end of it: with Husserl first, 
of whom I will speak soon, and for whom, whatever the catastrophe 
he caused, I have a great intellectual respect. I also have intellectual 
respect for some of those who take after him, Heidegger in particular, 
and, among my countrymen, men like Paul Ricoeur (who, however, I 
am still far from trusting) and Mircea Eliade (a great explorer but one 
who does not want to be a guide, thank goodness). I have none for 
Jean-Paul Sartre, who seems to me too artful, and who besides (and 
here he pleases me) would be quite sorry to find himself respected. 
(Yet I like to imagine him elected to the A cademie Frangaise, an 
honor wLich he certainly deserves.) But he has offered a testimony we 
would be quite wrong to neglect. 

Of all the thinkers— and great thinkers— w'hose lineage has its origin 
in Descartes, l contest neither the exceptional intelligence, nor the 
importance, nor the worth, nor, at times, the genius. In regard to 



them I challenge only one thing, but that I challenge with might 
and main, and with the certainty of being right: namely, their right 
to the name of philosopher (except, of course, for Bergson, and 
perhaps also Blondel). In dealing with those children of Descartes we 
must sweep away this name with the back of our hand. They are not 
philosophers; they are ideosophers : that is the only name which fits 
and by which it is proper to call them. It is in no way pejorative of 
itself, it merely designates another way of research and thought than 
the philosophic one. 

I beg my readers not to take what I have just said for the whim of a 
crazy old man. I am old but not crazy, and never have I spoken more 
seriously. Exactness of vocabulary is always important; in the present 
case it is of essential importance. Thinkers who from the outset have 
placed themselves outside the field of philosophic knowledge and 
research are not philosophers. A lineage of idealist origin, which from 
mutation to mutation more and more radically impugns extra-mental 
reality and the absolutely primary foundation of philosophic knowl- 
edge, could not possibly be called a philosophic lineage. Whoever is 
careful to be precise in his language should consider it an ideosophic 
lineage. (We can note, parenthetically, that at the present time the 
very thinkers whom current language, with little concern for pre- 
cision, still calls philosophers, do not seem overly anxious to claim the 
name. They value much more the name phenomenologist. And with a 
melancholy loyalty which does them honor, a number of them would 
prefer, it seems, merely to be a channel for the stream of research, a 
vanishing instant in its ever changing self-awareness. Their misfortune 
is not to have seen that thought is not the harlot of time . . .) 


Once the clarification to which I have just resorted has been ef- 
fected in our ideas and vocabulary, and once we have recognized the 
fact that there is no properly philosophic knowledge or research with- 
out a realist conception of knowledge, we can ask ourselves how the 
situation of philosophy looks in this second half of the twentieth 

The ideosophers being therefore left aside for a moment, we then 
realize, not without something of a shock, that we are confronted 


10 3 

today with only two doctrines— yes (a thousand pardons), they arc 
doctrines, and rather firmly planted ones (though far from cherishing 
one another) —which are, properly speaking, philosophic doctrines. 
For, while a good many different kinds of philosophic realism are 
surely conceivable in theory, in point of fact there are at present only 
two: Marxist realism and Christian realism. In other words, on the 
one hand there is Marxist philosophy, and on the other Christian 
philosophy, when it.does not fell short of the demands created by the 
coupling of these two words, nor give love-tokens to idealism or 
ideosophy. It is fairly well known that there is a Christian philosophy 
which meets these requirements, and is not faring too badly, in spite 
of the wishes and predictions of a sizable number of clerics. 

Here is a meeting point between Christianity and Marxism that 
M. Garaudy would have been well advised to take note of . 39 A pity 
his attention was not drawn to it by the authors he consulted before 
offering us that pious humanization of an old faith, pretty well de- 
mythized and at last converted to the hopes of the earth, which he 
terms "‘the fundamental” in Christians. One must praise the fidelity 
with which, in striving to depict this ancient faith, he has followed 
the directions furnished him by his informants, but still, when one 
undertakes to “dialogue” with Christianity, it is unfair not to take as 
one's interlocutor Christianity as it is, whatever the incorrigible alien- 
ations and superstitions one deems have debased it. 

Whatever the case with M. Garaudy's book, for my part I wish to 

S9 If I have read M. Garaudy correctly, I saw the name of Aquinas appear only 
once in his book (Un M arxiste s’adresse au Concile , p. 93), and it seems clear, in 
the light of this passage, that he is less interested in the basic principles of the 
philosophy of St. Thomas than in the latter's opinion of serfdom. Feudal society 
was very far (a little further than ours) from being a fully humanized society, 
which doesn’t mean that it had to be condemned in the name of absolute justice, 
or that moral theology should have regarded the lord who owned seifs as being in 
a state of sin. One wonders that an author who has (as one expects of an eminent 
Marxist) a sense of history (and a healthy aversion to “moralizing”) did not see 
this immediately, and could consider that a theologian of the thirteenth century, 
in regarding the feudal regime as a de facto situation sufficiently justified by history*, 
thereby demonstrated an unfortunate resignation to evil. There are, alas, more 
conclusive signs of the indifference so long demonstrated by the Christian world in 
the face of social injustice. 

It is likewise somewhat astonishing that, after having himself noted that St. 
Thomas lived at the time of serfdom, M. Garaudy, in the fragments he extracted 
from two articles of the Summa, translated Mryus not as “serf, which would have 
been normal, but as “slave.” 


call attention to the meeting point. For to be a philosophic doctrine, 
properly speaking, is no small thing, and we have to do justice to 
Marxism by recognizing that such is the case. 

Thereafter we must also be quick to recognize that the meeting 
point is a point of irreducible disagreement. For, from the very first, 
Marxist philosophy identifies extra-mental reality and matter , 40 thus 
making of the spiritual a superstructure or “reflection” of matter in 
dialectical motion and perpetual evolutive change, and excluding the 
slightest possibility of admitting or even conceiving the autonomy of 
the spiritual and the liberty which is proper to it (as they see it, the 
spiritual is no doubt in interaction with the substructure, but as 
though begotten by it and determined by it at every instant) . 

Moreover, when we think of this matter in dialectical motion , 41 
and which refuses every “substance” or “nature” of permanent consti- 
tution, we cannot help finding Marxist realism itself, however resolute 
it may be otherwise, nonetheless rather suspect. The famous “turning 
upside down” proclaimed by Engels itself invites us to do so. Hegel 
turned upside dowti, and put back on his feet, is still Hegel. . . 

But this is not the place to examine Marxist philosophy. (I have 
done that elsewhere.) As for Thomistic philosophy, its turn will 
come in the next chapter. It is of the liberation of philosophic eros 
that I would like now to speak. 


We are confronted today with only two philosophies. But there 
exists in man a philosophic eros and a nostalgia for philosophy. And 
since the theme of these last chapters is the inner renewals which the 
great historic springtide, the new Renaissance announced and ushered 
in by the Council primarily calls for, it is clear that with respect to 

40 “The notion of matter/' wrote Lenin in Materialism and Empiriocriticism, 
“from the point of view of the theory of language, signifies absolutely nothing but 
the objective reality whose existence is independent of human consciousness and 
is reflected by the latter." On Marxism, cf. our recent work Moral Philosophy 
(Chap. X, “Marx and His School"), and also True Humanism. 

41 In reflecting also on what M. Garaudy (op. cit ., p. 6o) calls the “Faustian 
primacy of action in Marx" and the practical criterion considered as “criterion of 
truth." In the eyes of this philosophy, the real is not before actings it acts in order 
to be, which is rather suggestive of very ancient mythologies. 


10 5 

the demands and worries of intelligence it is toward this philosophic 
eros present in the depths of man that we have first to turn. 

This poor philosophic eros is today in a rather bad condition, ly- 
ing bound and gagged at the bottom of the soul. And what is worse, 
it is being cheated. It stirs in its jail, it yearns for liberation. Such a 
liberation implies two operations. The first of these, which I will 
discuss at length, answers to- the need for liberating philosophic eros 
from every idealist or ideosophic shackle. In saying this, I turn to the 
man who, in our times, has played a role analogous to Descartes' in 
the seventeenth century, namely Husserl. 

Yet in order to shed a little light on the subject, we must first 
briefly recall just where the mystery of knowing lies. As I have written 
elsewhere , 42 thought need not go out of itself to reach the extra- 
mental thing. This extra-mental thing, a being for itself posited “out- 
side of thought," that is to say, fully independent of the act of 
thinking— thought itself renders it existing within thought, posited for 
it and integrated with its own act, so that henceforth thought and 
being exist within thought in one and the same supra-subjectivc 
existence. Thus, it is in thought itself that extra-mental being is 
reached, in the concept itself that the real is touched and handled; 
it is there, within thought itself, that the real is seized, and devoured, 
because the very glory of thought's immateriality lies in not being a 
thing in space external to some other spatial thing, but indeed a life 
superior to the whole order of spatiality, which, without going out of 
itself, perfects itself by what is not itself— that intelligible real whose 
fertile substance its own activity takes out from the senses, after the 
senses have first drawn it— in their (not yet spiritual) way— from 
material existants in act. 

These things Husserl did not see. A man of greatness and funda- 
mental integrity, he deserved the gratitude and affection Edith Stein 
continued to feel for him while freeing herself from his influence. 
But like so many others, he was a victim of Descartes and Kant. 
The tragedy of Husserl lies in this, that, after being given his start by 
Brentano, he made a desperate effort to liberate philosophic eros, and 
at the moment he was about to succeed, he hurled it back into its 
jail, binding it (because he was himself ensnared), with the finest of 
threads, stronger by far than those of the old cogito, to illusions 

42 T/i€ Degrcct erf Knowledge , op. cit., pp. 125-1 26. 



much more deceptive than all the Cartesian illusions, and which were 
to bring ideosophy taken for philosophy to a refined form most 
treacherous for the mind. 

Husserl's procedure involved an intrinsic contradiction which his 
idealist prejudice prevented him from perceiving. Believing, like Des- 
cartes, that a reflexive gaze turned back upon the thinking subject 
could be used to build a philosophy, he erected into a principle the 
suspension of judgment , the epokhe dear to Pyrrho, by positing, as 
the primary methodological rule for the philosophizing intellect, that 
the latter is obliged (as a result of an a priori dictate and an idealist 
postulate never critically examined) to put in parentheses the whole 
range of extra-mental being (the very bread by which the intellect 
lives) at the very time when it performs the act of knowing. Thus, by 
a detestable rupture, we must separate the "object" perceived by the 
intelligence— which we place at the interior of knowing— from the 
"thing" which it perceives— which we banish to the exterior of know- 
ing, in the parenthesis. As if the object perceived were not the thing 
itself insofar as intelligibly perceived! The thing itself carried to the 
very heart of the intelligence in order to become one with its vital 
act! Henceforth, the intellect, violating the very law of its life, is 
supposed to stop short at an object-phenomenon , which severs it 
from itself as well as from what is in the real world. 

What is the meaning of this? It means (at this point I am obliged 
to do violence to the English language) that the intellect should 
think being ( penser Vctre) while refusing to think it as such; in other 
terms, it means that in thinking "being" I think something that is 
thought , not something that is(en pensant Vctre , je pense du pense 9 
non pas Vctre); or, as I have already observed : 43 I know being on 
condition that it is put in parenthesis and abstracted out of sight (je 
connais Vctre d condition de le mettre entre parentheses ou de faire 
abstraction de lui ). Thus one sees emerge the absurdity inherent in 
the first principle— let us call it the Husserlian Parenthesis, which cuts 
knowledge in two, or the Husserlian Refusal— on which the whole 
of contemporary phenomenology depends. 

In this phenomenology, every regulation coming from being or the 
real is henceforth rejected, and thought must do all its work while 
leaving the real in the parenthesis, and with no other guide-marks 

48 Cf. Chap. 1 , p. 8. 



than the variable and endlessly swarming aspects it discovers in sub- 
jectivity— either the subjectivity of the intellectual operation itself, if 
I may say so, or the subjectivity of the experience of man with all its 
riches which, enthralling as they may be, have only the value of mere 
fact seized by the good fortune of observation. As a result, the whole 
of thought is delivered in its interpretations to the rule of the Veri- 
similar and the Arbitrary, and the ideosophy is brought, come what 
may, to the state of Grand Sophistry. Protagoras had already formu- 
lated the great axiom: and that's the point to which they have all 
come— man as the measure of all things, even of the God he worships. 


Whether they honor Husserl, or disregard and disown him (Man is 
ungrateful), or dismiss the Meditations cartesiennes , all our phenom- 
enologists presuppose Husserl and are the prisoners of his Refusal. 

There are some— the existentialist theorists (have they chosen the 
name to compensate for some frustration?)— in whom philosophic 
eros struggles to free itself, and who thereby find themselves engaged 
in a blind drama. It is in what I have just called the subjectivity of 
the intellectual operation itself, with its infinity of aspects and 
psychological shifts (to which, for the sake of a small ecstasy, they 
claim to give an alleged “ontological” meaning) that they are attempt- 
ing to find this impossible liberation. The great witness in this drama 
is Heidegger, whom an ardent metaphysical eros, but enchained too, 
relentlessly torments, and who, obsessed with anxiety for being, car- 
ries on a tragic struggle against the emptiness of thought implied by 
phenomenology, only to go and seek help now, it seems, from the 
poets and the theogonic powers of their language: thereby bringing, as 
has been said , 44 “the most significant evidence of the absence of 
philosophy in our time.” 

44 Pierre Trotignon, Heideggtr (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1965), p. 66. 
Besides, Heidegger himself docs not wish to be a philosopher — but doubtless in 
wishing to be or become something better (once more the Hegelian virus). 

“Thomism,” writes Etienne Gilson, “is a philosophy of Sein insofar as it is a 
philojiophy of e$ 9 c. Wheu young people invite us to make the discovery of Martin 
Heidegger, they invite us, without knowing, to make them rediscover the trans- 
ontk metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas. ... It would be interesting to know 



To the drama of which I am speaking our Sartre is, for his own 
part, a nauseated witness (and less liberated than he likes to believe), 
who has, I think, perceived, thanks to literature and something of the 
novelist's sixth sense, a crack in the Parenthesis — situated so low down 
that one can steal a glance at it without giving offense to methodology 
—and, through the sewer, catch a glimpse of real existence, but (there 
is an idealist for you) as a shapeless, enormous and obscene, unspeak- 
able and monstrous insult to reason— the Absurd of pure and abso- 
lute contingency . 45 And he was very quick to fill up the crack in the 
Parenthesis and to bring back into his thought, in the capacity of 
“object-phenomenon," that loathsome Absurd, in order to work out 
with it an “ontology" of the phenomenon, or better still, “of the 
trans-phenomenal being of the phenomenon," 46 and to declare that 
“the world is en trop.” 47 Words put up with everything. Yet it is 
clear that Sartre too brings us, in his own way, a forceful proof of the 
absence of philosophy in our time. (Well, there are nevertheless two, 
let us not forget it.) 

Some among our other phenomenologists, a good many it seems, 
have definitely renounced philosophic eros, and, with perfect peace 
of mind, leave it tightly bound in its dark cell. To be theorists of 
existentialism holds no attraction for them. What interests them is to 
scrutinize and interpret (while still keeping, of course, extra-mental 
reality in the Parenthesis, and conforming, good naturedly, to the 
Husserlian Refusal) the world of human things which we are thirst- 
ing to know— ourselves and our life and the whole mystery of our 
past, as well as of our present beliefs and anxieties, history, culture, 
art, philosophy (why not?), religion above all— which they submit to 

what Heidegger would have thought had he known of the existence of a meta- 
physics of esse before making his initial decisions. But we will never know; it is 
too late. . . . How could we, since Heidegger himself will never know? I ask the 
question only to suggest to those who urge us to follow him that there is no 
danger in store. Perhaps we have but the handicap of our advantage: they are 
urging us to follow those we have left behind/' (“ Trois legons sur le Thomisme 
et sa situation presente ” Seminarium , No. 4, pp. 718-719.) 

45 On this Sartrian idea of contingency, see the remarks of Claude Tresmontant 
in Comment se pose aujourd’hui le probUme de V existence de Dieu (Paris: 6 d. du 
Seuil, 1966), pp. 130-144. 

46 Being and Nothingness (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. lxii. 

47 Probably (it is but a possible interpretation) the author meant that the world 
is a meaningless, unwanted and disgusting surplus, offending both reason and 
man’s freedom. 



hermeneutics where it is forbidden to go beyond man and his meas- 
ure, and where myths henceforth inevitably reign supreme. Since they 
are quite intelligent thinkers, anxious to be thoroughly and precisely 
informed and, more often than not, honest and sincere (although the 
Grand Sophistry, hidden in the heaven of the mind, keeps them al- 
ways under its wing), their investigations are remarkably instructive 
and sometimes fascinating. Pjpvided it is not so craven as to accept 
everything uncritically, philosophy can greatly profit by them. But 
these investigations still remain under the regime of the Verisimilar 
and the Arbitrary, of everything to the measure of man , and thus, of 
a kind of latent immanentism; and finally, they seem to, but fail to, 
quench our thirst. And not just our thirst. If we had only them for 
guides they would land us in illusion. 

Phenomenology is enjoying an immense prestige. I wish (without 
expecting too much) that my necessarily long discussion of this most 
recent of the mutations of idealism has been able to help some 
readers clarify their own ideas on the subject. 

There are still two remarks left to make. The first concerns a 
radical error which the mind, if it wishes to free itself from the chains 
which have fettered it for so long, should squarely reject once and for 
all. This is the Kantian error. I quote a few lines from a contemporary 
philosopher, who says what matters most on the subject: “If reason 
is, as it were, an organon constituted a priori t we can ask ourselves by 
what chance does reason happen to accord with the real. But if reason 
is not constituted a priori, if the principles belonging to reason are in 
fact drawn from the real itself through our knowledge of the real, then 
one need hardly be astonished if there is accord between reason and 
the real. . . . Rationality is not an order or a structure constituted 
a priori , but a relation between the human mind and the real. . . . 
Rationality is not determined a priori and in a purely formal way, but 
with respect to the real, and in terms of the real. Rationality is,” in the 
mathematical sense of the word, “a function of the real.” 48 

My second remark concerns a truth (obvious but obscured by 
generations of hair-splitters) which the mind, if it seeks to liberate 
at last philosophic eros and liberate itself, should first of all recognize 

CUudc TTeOTKtfrtaiat* op. cit., pp. 161-162. 



and always respect. I mean to say that the human mind, although 
being a reason handling its concepts and held to the strictest logic (it 
owes this to its carnal condition), is also an intellect, that is, a power 
capable of seeing in the intelligible order as the eye sees in the sensi- 
ble order, but with incomparably more certitude. Is it not through 
such an intuition that the intellect knows the “first principles' 7 of 
every demonstration? I am by no means speaking here of intuition 
such as Bergson understood it— -although I am not forgetting that 
there is a “Bergsonism of intention" much nearer than one believes to 
Thomistic realism, nor that Bergson toward the end of his life, said 
once that he and myself, that poor Jacques who had criticized him so 
severely, had met “in the middle of the road." I do not forget, either, 
that even when busy with its work or research of the most rational i 

kind, the human mind (because it is an intellect drawing its suste- [ 

nance from the sensible world), is helped and prodded, in order to 1 

work well, much more often than philosophers and scientists are will- i 

ing to admit, by “intuitions," or flashes of the imagination— they 
come to it unexpectedly, with the luck of the road, from the vigilance ' 
of sense and poetic instinct, or are born in the night of the uncon- 
scious (let us say rather, of the preconscious or supra-conscious of the 

But I leave all that aside. It is of a totally different intuition that I ' 

am speaking: and intellectual intuition, purely and simply intellec- v 

tual, which is the proper and sacred good of the intelligence as such 
— the absolutely primary intuition without which there is no genu- 
ine philosophic savior or wisdom: the intuition of being. To wish 
for it is not enough to get it. Bergson got it through a substitute 
which deceived him— and it was masked, in his way of conceptualiz- 
ing it, by anti-intellectualist prejudice. Neither Husserl nor any ideos- 
opher has had it. But whoever goes far enough in meditation will 
experience it some day— I mean whoever manages to enter into that 
alert and watchful silence of the mind where, consenting to the sim- 
plicity of the true, the intellect becomes sufficiently available, and 
vacant, and open, to hear what all things murmur, and to listen , 
instead of fashioning answers. Many have actually had this intuition , 
who were too distracted by everyday life or their own reasonings to 
become aware of it. And many more among the common people 



experience it in this way than among “cultured” people. And it is 
enough to look at the gaze of certain children to realize that, without 
their having in them any of the reflectiveness of adults, their gaze is 
directed more at being than at the toys with which one amuses them, 
or even at the world whose riches they constantly discover simply by 
taking the trouble to receive them. 

I will not try and describe what escapes any restraint and is beyond 
any word (although tlie ’simplest of concepts and the simplest of 
words are a valid sign of it), nor to lead someone where access is 
given only in purest solitude of soul. But is it not possible to resort to 
the language of metaphor, as inadequate as it is, to convey, not, to be 
sure, that which the intelligence grasps, but an inkling of the experi- 
ence of this grasping? Let us say then (I have said this before , 49 
though somewhat differently): What I then perceive is like a pure 
activity, a consistency, but superior to the whole order of the imagin- 
able, a vivid tenacity, at once precarious (it is nothing for me to crush 
a gnat) and fierce (within me, around me, mounts like a clamor the 
universal vegetation) by which things surge up against me and tri- 
umph over a possible disaster, stand there, and not merely there, 
but in themselves, and by which they shelter in their thickness, in 
the humble measure meted out to what is perishable, a kind of glory 
demanding to be recognized. 

That is what I can say of the experience in mvsclf, faible roseau 
pensant , of the intuition of the actus essendi. A soul who is very close 
to me once gave me this testimony: “It often happened that I 
experienced, through a sudden intuition, the reality of my being, of 
the profound, first principle which places me outside of nothingness. 
A powerful intuition, whose violence sometimes frightened me, and 
which has first given me the knowledge of a metaphysical absolute.” 50 

The intuition of being is not only, like the reality of the world and 
of things, the absolutely primary foundation of philosophy. It is the 
absolutely primary principle of philosophy (when the latter is able to 
be totally faithful to itself and achieve all of its dimensions) . 

** Cf. A Preface to Metaphysics (New York: Sliced and Ward, 1940), p. 53. 

50 Ralssa Mari tain, We Have Been Friends Together (New York: Image Books, 
Doubleday and Co. 1961 ), p. 116. 




I have already stated (pp. 104-105) that the liberation of philo- 
sophic eros implies two operations, and have discussed the first of 
these, which concerns idealism and its after-effects, at some length. 
There is still one other thing which it behooves the mind to get rid of 
in order to bring about this liberation. This time it is not only philo- 
sophic eros which must be set free: for we are dealing with all that of 
which the hunger for the real, co-essential to the human soul, is de- 
frauded; and this hunger longs to be satisfied with the real insofar as 
philosophic knowledge can convey it to us, but it also longs for the 
real insofar as it can be conveyed to us through more exalted ways. 

Frustrated by an unbearable fast, such a hunger can give way in us 
to a pathological need which is equally vast, and seems a perversion of 
it. We have now to examine this need, for it worries us a great deal 
and we must get rid of it. What need? The need for fables and intel- 
lectual false currency. It is enormous nowadays and its roots go deep. 

As a result of prejudices at work for a century in our proud modern 
culture, we are convinced not only that metaphysical knowledge is 
entirely valueless, but that in the realm of non-metaphysical knowl- 
edge only one type is capable of unshakeable certitude: Science — 
either mathematical sciences or sciences of the phenomena of nature. 
(This is rather funny, because great mathematicians tell us that the 
poetic instinct and the sense of beauty play a great part in their 
business, 51 and because the more physics, the queen of the sciences 
of nature, advances in its admirable discoveries, the more its fecundity 
seems to depend on what M. d'Espagnat calls "the perpetual renewal 
of scientific perspectives/' 52 on rapidly changing hypotheses, and on 
ways of mathematical interpretation which vary with the diversity of 

51 See Marston Morse, "Mathematics and the Arts,” Yale Review, Summer 
1951, cited in my book, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (New York: Pantheon 
Books, 1954), p. 93, n. 33. 

62 Bernard d’Espagnat, Conceptions de la Physique contemporaine (Paris: 
Hermann, 1965). This rigorous and lucid book offers philosophers concerned with 
epistemology a remarkable presentation of the actual state of the question in the 
case of theoretical physics. 



cases, and even at times contradict one another. All this is quite 
normal, moreover, as far as this particular level in human knowledge is 
considered. But this in no way alters our general conviction that 
scientists are the only ones to perform a work of rational knowledge 
worthy of the name, and that Science, in the modern sense of the 
word, is endowed with an absolute privilege of intellectual certainty.) 

On the other hand,Jt is clgrr that science as such has nothing to 
tell us about the problems which matter most to us, and about the 
idea of the world, of man, perhaps of God, which we cannot escape 
forming for ourselves, any more than about the torment of the abso- 
lute, the “why were we born?”; the “to what can we wholly give our 
hearts?”; the desire for that fire which will burn us without consum- 
ing us, which as hidden as they may be, are there, in our very depths. 
All of this remains completely outside the scope of science. 

No one is more keenly aware of the limitations inherent in the very 
validity of science, and more scrupulously careful in observing them, 
than the scientists themselves, although they sometimes feel how 
desirable it would be, if it were possible, to go beyond these limita- 
tions in order to work out a de natura rerum, and reach, in a rational 
synthesis in accordance with their findings, an overall view of that 
world on which they w'ork in their closely guarded precinct. A few of 
them, Julian Huxley for instance, have tried their hand at it by extra- 
polating the concepts of science— that is, by carrying them outside the 
field where they are valid. (How could they do otherwise, since no 
one has furnished them— supposing they wished to learn how to use 
it— with the only instrument adapted to such an enterprise: philo- 
sophic knowledge with the approach and concepts proper to it?) The 
attempts in question have all been unhappy. Without being in the 
least aware of it, these perfectly honest minds had issued bad money, 
though not very harmful. This kind of bad money has a circulation as 
restricted as it is short-lived, and hardly deceives anybody but those 
who naively coin it. 

With the phcnomcnologists it is quite another story. Mixed in with 
the good copper coin of psychological observation and the human 
sciences whose treasures they are exploiting for us, the highbrow 
fables and false currency they issue (in perfect good faith, I am not 
forgetting) enjoy a very widespread circulation, and succeed in mak- 
ing philosophic intelligence come to grief. That’s a fine achievement. 

ii 4 


Because of their very renunciation of attaining reality in itself, such 
ideosophers cannot, however, launch the mind on miraculous dreams 
or enthralling adventures in which its living forces will blaze in vain. 

Of course, there are also counterfeiters, the quacks, and their 
clientele. But these don't count, even for our precious intelligentsia 
which leaves them where they belong, in the gutter. 

When we bring all this data together, what sort of balance sheet 
should we draw up? Nothing but a blank: a blank rather innocuous, 
as far as the pseudo-philosophical ventures of a few scientists are 
concerned; an immense void with respect to philosophical intelli- 
gence snared and deluded by phenomenology; an absolute blank when 
it comes to the aspiration of the spirit for that supreme wisdom 
which Hegel sought in vain. 

Except for the quite restricted province of science busy with in- 
terpreting measurable phenomena and achieving mastery over matter, 
the great hunger for the real, co-essential with the human soul, has 
absolutely nothing to allay what it longs for. Why be surprised at the 
enormous need for fables and intellectual false currency which has de- 
veloped within us? This need is limitless. What it craves for is not any 
kind whatsoever of fables or false currency even enjoying a widespread 
circulation; it is the great Fable and the great False Currency, which 
will cheat our great hunger, and will be current in the entire world, 
controlling the entire market of our hearts' and minds' demands. 

That bad money chases out good is a familiar adage, and it applies 
equally to the false currency of the intelligence, at least for a while. 
This spell was very short for the early Christian Gnostics, however 
sublime the Logos they claimed to represent may have seemed. Far 
from answering a need for fiction, they were in front of truth itself, 
and the reaction of faith was too sharp, the offensive of the Apologist 
Fathers too vigorous, for their influence to be lasting. History has 
witnessed the appearance of other superior minds with a passion for 
the truth, who deluded themselves and uttered the great Fable and 
issued great intellectual False Currency— the latter has never been the 
work of purveyors of fiction or counterfeiters , 53 it demands perfect 
sincerity, at least to begin with, great intellectual power, and the en- 

63 A counterfeiter is one who makes counterfeit money on purpose, with the 
intention of deceiving. 


ll 5 

raptured devotion of noble spirits led astray in spite of themselves. 
(Not completely in spite of themselves, for there is at the outset a 
sin against the intellect: the refusal to recognize the intrinsic order of 
the human intelligence, with the essential distinction it requires be- 
tween the typical forms of knowledge of which the mind is capable. 
From the start one mixes everything together: since, scanty as it may 
have been in such and such an age, philosophy of nature, metaphysics, 
theology, natural mystique; even touches of supernatural mystique, all 
of which are made to contaminate and corrupt one another in a 
powerful high-soaring lyrical flight— unnatural and deceptive because 
it is pseudo-angelic.) The Moslem Gnostics have a particular interest 
for us because they were monists who clung nevertheless (hence a 
tremendous and stimulating inner tension) to faith in the one and 
transcendent God of Islam. I am speaking of them without scruples, 
despite my lack of scholarship because conversations with Louis 
Gardet have given me the necessary information on the subject. He 
made me share his admiration (the most guarded) for the genius of 
Ibn ‘ArabI, that great wondrous synthesizer of the thirteenth century, 
fascinated by a world in the process of emanation which came from 
God, manifested God to God himself, and returned to him . 54 The 
remote and contrasted analogy which my friend pointed out between 
the thought of Ibn 'ArabI and certain views of Teilhard seemed to me 
quite remarkable. Before Ibn 'Arab! there had been Nasir e-Khosraw, 
and, after him would come Mulla Sadra. In the Christian world there 
was Jacob Boehme, Fichte perhaps, and some other great names. But 
none of the men dedicated to Gnosis I have just referred to were an- 
swering a general need for the great Fable, any more than were the 
Christian Gnostics of the first centuries. This privilege was reserved 
for our time. 

As far as the history of culture is concerned, the great Fable or great 
intellectual False Currency, taken in itself, is not as dangerous as it 
appears. What is infinitely more dangerous is the need for this coun- 
terfeit money because, as long as it is with us, it will insist on being 
served. After each issue, it will require another, it is never satisfied. In 
spite of everything, it is a piece of good luck for our age that TeiJ- 

M Cf. Louis Gandct, “Exptrienc* et Gnou chcz Ibn 'Arab!” an article soon to 
appear in a collective work in honor of Ibn ‘ArabI, under the auspices of the 
General Secretariat of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences, UAR. 


hardism— whatever disastrous simplifications may always accompany 
the enthusiastic popularization of a great impassionate conception — 
owes its origins to a genius as lofty as that of Pere Teilhard de 
Chardin with so tenacious, so ardent, and so artlessly pure a faith. 
After Teilhardism, something new will be demanded, and after that 
something else, which will be worth even less. 

As superfluous as it is for any sensible person, I am here inserting a 
parenthesis. For there are things which are self-evident, but on which, 
nevertheless, it is worth our while to insist. The offensive terms which 
I have had to use in this section refer to ideas that are in circulation, 
not to the person who conceived them. The solitary, painful, obsti- 
nate research of Pere Teilhard, his patient courage in the face of the 
hardly very noble obstacles set up in his path, his zeal for truth, his 
total gift of self to a mission which he considered prophetic, the pure 
sincerity which shines from one end of his work to the other, and the 
extraordinary personal experience which he underwent, are all things 
which deserve deepest respect. He was a paleontologist of great worth, 
a Christian whose faith never wavered, a priest of exemplary fidelity. I 
said earlier that none of the varieties of the great Fable or great intel- 
lectual False Currency exemplified by history was ever the work of 
dealers in fiction or counterfeiters. Nobody will do me the wrong of 
imagining that words I have explicitly ruled out with respect to the 
person of the great Gnostics, could ever be applied by me to the per- 
son of Pere Teilhard de Chardin, nor that outrage and self-contradic- 
tion form part of my arsenal. And yet, when I consider, not Teilhard 
certainly, but the ideas which he put in circulation, and especially 
Teilhardism, with its literature of propaganda and its enraptured ec- 
clesiastical retinue, no matter how hard I am striving, it is impossible 
to avoid offensive terms if I look for exactness. And the fact is, I 
pledged at the beginning of this book to call a spade a spade. 


I had the honor of meeting Pere Teilhard de Chardin a few times. 
When I saw him for the first time— it was at Paris a long time ago — I 
was struck by the total isolation in which he carried out his research. 



He asked himself a good many questions and, on leaving him, I won- 
dered how, in a great religious Order such as the one he belonged to, 
be was not helped by a few friends, good philosophers or theologians, 
who would form a team with him. Maybe he didn't want such a 
thing. (Just why, after years of study under teachers no doubt wisely 
chosen for their mission, he remained in perfect ignorance or forget- 
fulness of the Doctor , Comrjiunis , is another mystery, which has 
astonished Gilson.) * 

In the course of another meeting, he spoke in a moving way of the 
scientists among his friends with whom his language permitted him to 
broach the problem of religion without obstacles or the feeling of 
tbeir being pushed out of their own home ground, and I had the im- 
pression he found this a valuable encouragement. During the war, he 
sent me from China a pamphlet 55 whose contents confirmed me 
in certain of my views, and which I cited in one of my books . 58 It 
was toward the end of the war, in New York, that I saw him for the 
last time. He did not conceal a certain bitterness (understandable 
enough) toward the ecclesiastical authorities. For my part, I can't say 
I liked the way, a few years later, his papers circulated anonymously in 
the seminaries. 

There is a justice to be rendered to him, which is that he was al- 
ways at the opposite pole from idealism or ideosophy. He never stop- 
ped believing with an unshakable certitude in the reality of the world. 
With respect to realism, in the sense this word has for epistemology, 
and to the primary foundation of philosophy (it is, nevertheless, only 
the foundation) he was, without realizing it, in full agreement with 
St. Thomas. It is their only meeting point; and yet it left room, all 
the same, for a serious ambiguity. For while St. Thomas was perfectly 
certain of the reality of the world, he didn't put so much fervor into 
it; he had only to open his eyes. Whereas “faith in the world" and 
“faith in God" were, so to speak, the two poles of Teilhard's thought. 
Everybody knows how he spoke of these two types of faith. 

And finally did he not state once that his effort to discover a “better 
Christianity" (the “meta-Christianity" which he mentioned to Gil- 
son) was directed toward a religion in which the personal God would 

M Reflexions sut le progrh, Peking, 1041. 

56 7 Tie Rights of Man and Natural Law (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 


become "the soul of the World that our religious and cultural stage of 
development calls for ?" 57 (something to delight the ancient 
Stoics . . .) 

At the very root of Teilhard's thought there was, I believe, a poetic 
intuition— extremely powerful— of the sacred worth of created na- 
ture: a worth to which no limits could be assigned. I am imagining a 
Lucretius who would have been Christian. 

This intuition had to be reconciled with a faith in the one and 
triune God and in the Incarnate Word— and simultaneously with a re- 
ligious awareness, extremely powerful in its own right, of the presence 
of God in the world. (In this religious awareness, natural mystique 
must have played the greater part, for it caused the soul to experience 
in some way the created effects of the Presence of immensity, but, in a 
soul living from grace, it could no doubt include also touches of su- 
pernatural mystique, mingled, as this whole experience was, with a 
singular human exaltation.) I am thinking of the great text of Teil- 
hard, The Mass on the World. 

How realize such a reconciliation, and attempt to conceptualize it? 
By taking hold of the idea of evolution, which biology, astrophysics, 
microchemistry have made familiar to science, so as to give a mystical 
sense to it (to it too), and make of it a great Myth of the universal 
reality: we have thus to contemplate a sacred Evolution carrying 
through a series of threshold-crossings a matter endowed with spiritual 
potentialities, and infinitely humble at the outset, to the very glory of 
the sons of God, and the throne of that personal God whose incarnate 

57 Lettres d Ldontine Zanta (Paris: Descl6e De Brouwer, 1965). The italics are 
mine. I reproduce here the entire sentence: “What is coming to dominate my 
interests and inner preoccupations, as you already know, is the effort to establish 
within me, and spread around me, a new religion (let us call it, if you like, a 
better Christianity) in which the personal God ceases to be the great neolithic 
proprietor of old in order to become the soul of the World which our religious and 
cultural stage of development calls for.” 

In this text, it is fitting to underline not merely “the soul of the World , which 
our religious and cultural stage calls for,” but also the words: “the effort to 
establish within me and spread around me.” This “spread around me” obliges us 
to conclude that Etienne Gilson allowed himself to be carried away by an impulse 
of the heart when, noting that the doctrine of Teilhard “was hardly a doctrine, 
but rather a way of feeling,” he added, “one could not possibly maintain that he 
did anything whatever to spread it.” See his Article “Le cas Teilhard de Chardin” 
op. cit . , p. 735. He never stopped trying to spread it. 



Son is, at the heart of the cosmos, the principle motor of the whole of 

Thus, it seems to me, may be outlined, as to its essentials, the bare 
trajectory of Teilhard’s thought. This thought gives to Science a daz- 
zling primacy. Actually, the science of the scientists has been entirely 
outpaced, nay more, swept along and absorbed into a great torrent 
of ardent meditation, in which science, faith, mystique, theology and 
philosophy in a diffused state, are inextricably mingled and con- 
founded. And in this we are forced indeed to recognize the sin 
against the intellect to which I have already drawn attention . 58 
Doubtless it was in all innocence that Teilhard committed it, since 
the idea of a specific distinction between the different degrees of 
knowledge was always completely foreign to him. Yet even so, it was a 
sin against the intellect in its own right, and, as such, an irreparable 

That is why, if we place ourselves in an authentically theological 
perspective in order to consider the doctrine ("hardly a doctrine, 
rather a way of feeling”) of Teilhard de Chardin, we must say with 
Gilson that, in the poetic world in which he introduces us "whoever 
has followed the history of Christian thought finds himself in familiar 
country. The Teilhardian theology is one more Christian gnosis, and 
like gnoses from Marcion to the present, it is a theology-fiction. We 
recognize all the traditional earmarks of the breed: a cosmic perspec- 
tive on all problems, or perhaps we should say a perspective of cos- 
mogenesis. We have a cosmic material, a cosmic Christ , 59 and, since 
the latter is the physical center of creation, we have a Christ who is 
basically an ‘evolutor’ and ‘humanizator,’ in short, a ‘universal 
Christ’ as an explanation of the universal mystery, which is but one 
with the Incarnation. Cosmogenesis thereby becomes Christogenesis, 
giving rise to the Christie and the Christosphere, an order which 
crowns the noosphere and perfects it through the transforming pres- 
ence of Christ. This nice vocabulary is not cited as blameworthy in it- 
self, but merely as symptomatic of the taste which all gnoses show for 

58 Cf. pp. 1 14-1 1 5. 

™ In support of his views, Teilhard appealed to St. Paul by assimilating the 
thought of the Apostle to his own in 3 way which only the “transports of passion,” 
a.s is said in famous criminal cases, can excuse. At the conclusion of this book there 
is a long Note on a I'ext of St. Paul which I have written on the Subject. [J.M.] 


pathetic neologisms, hinting at unfathomable perspectives and heavy 
with affectivity." 60 

In the matter of doctrine, we are here in the regime (impossible to 
invent another word nor one less offensive to pious ears, nor more 
exact) of the Great Fable. While it is true that Teilhardism— I say 
Teilhardism , the ideology fabricated by the initiates and given circula- 
tion by the popular press— presents itself as a doctine (which we must 
describe for what it is); on the contrary, what matters essentially in 
Teilhard himself is a personal experience, and, truly speaking, incom- 
municable, although he never ceased looking for ways to communi- 
cate it. This accounts for the title chosen by Etienne Gilson for his 
excellent study; 61 since it unfortunately appeared in a publication 
which is not easily come by, I will offer a few extracts from it in the 
course of my own reflections. I would like first to have cited the pages 
where Gilson pays tribute to the person of Teilhard, but I was pleased 
to pay such a tribute myself just a few pages ago, and I see no point in 
repeating myself. 

The core of Gilson's study, it seems to me, is the part where he 
accounts for that meta-Christianity about which Teilhard, on the spur 
of the moment, once spoke to him in New York. The term "left him 
nonplussed" at first, but on further thought, Teilhard's meaning was 
not slow in dawning on him. The key was furnished by a passage in 
Christianisme et Evolution , Suggestions pour servir & une theologie 
nouvelle: "Roughly speaking," Teilhard writes, "we can say that while 
the main preoccupation of Theology during the first centuries of the 
Church was to determine, intellectually and mystically, the position 
of Christ in relation to the Trinity, its vital concern in our day has 
become this: to analyze and specify the relations of existence and in- 
fluence connecting together Christ and the Universe." 62 

Teilhard believed that "in the first century of the Church, Chris- 
tianity made its definitive entry into human thought by boldly as- 

60 Etienne Gilson, “Trois legons sur le Thomisme et sa situation presente , 
Seminarium (No. 4, 1965), pp. 716-717. 

61 “Le cas Teilhard de Chardin,” op. cit., pp. 720 ff. 

62 Quoted by Claude Cu£not, Teilhard de Chardin (Paris: ed. du Seuil, 1963), 
p. 141. '‘I don’t believe,” Gilson remarks, “that any text of P£re Teilhard is more 
significant or expresses more clearly and simply the meaning of his enterprise.” 
“Le cas Teilhard de Chardin ,” p. 730. 



fimikting the Christ of the Gospel to the Alexandrian Logos." 68 
Here he was wrong, for as Gilson puts it, what happened was “exactly 
the opposite. The Apologist Fathers did not boldly assimilate the 
Jesus of the Gospel to the Alexandrian Logos"; it was the Alexandrian 
Logos which, even more daringly, they “assimilated to Christ the Sav- 
ior of the Gospel." 64 Be that as it may, what was called for today, in 
Teilhard's view, was the reverse of what he believed the Fathers had 
done. It involves, thfen, a “complete transposition of Christology," 66 
i “generalization of Christ the Redeemer into a veritable Christ the 
cvolutor." w We must “integrate Christianity with cosmogene- 
iis"; 91 for it is imperative that “today's theology assimilate Christ to 
the cosmic force, origin and end of Evolution. What a revolution! We 
aie simply invited to bring back our faith in the Redeemer to its 
proper place." 68 

In this way, Teilhard “can in one stroke speak of that ‘elevation of 
the historical Jesus to a universal physical function' and that ‘ultimate 
identification of cosmogenesis with a Christogenesis.' Note the 
word elevation! We thus obtain the ‘neo-logos of modem philosophy/ 
who is no longer primarily the redeemer of Adam, but the ‘evolutory 
principle of a universe in motion.' Look how careful he has been to 
preserve Christ, they will tell us! Yes, but what Christ?. ..Iam not 
sure whether an omega point of science exists, but I feel perfectly 
sure that in the Gospel, Jesus of Nazareth is quite another thing than 
the ‘concrete germ' of the Christ Omega. It's not that the new func- 
tion of Christ lacks grandeur or nobility, but that it is something ut- 
terly different from the old. We feel a little as though we were before 
an empty tomb: they have taken away Our Lord and we do not know 
where they have laid him." 69 

We would be making a mistake, however, if we thought that Teil- 
hard ever wished to substitute for the historical Jesus of the Gospel a 
Christ “elevated to a universal physical function," and to replace the 

** Teilhard de Chardm, op. cit. r p. 141 (Gilson, p. 731 ) . 

M Gilson, p. 732. 

** Ibid., p. 721. 

•• Teilhard ae Chardm , Christumisme et Evolution, p. 142. 

07 Claixk Cu6not, Teilhard de Chardm (Paris: 6d. du Scuil, 1963), p. 143, 
(Gibon, p. 734). 

** Gibon, p. 731. 

Ibid., pp. 732-733 (all the formulations of Teilhard de Chardin quoted there 
ace found in the work of Claude Cu^ixyt, op. crt., p. 142) . 



Christ of faith by a cosmic Christ— in whom, as Gilson remarks, “no 
scientist believes /' 70 (although he was imagined for their sake). The 
turning upside down of Christianity which Teilhard's “meta-Chris- 
tianity" amounted to is an operation of much vaster scope. What is to 
be done is to make the very Christ of history into the cosmic 
Christ. It seems to me I can catch a glimpse of the manner in which 
Teilhard was able to conceive such an enterprise, when I consider 
what is implied in a purely evolutive conception where being is re- 
placed by becoming and every essence or nature stably constituted in 
itself vanishes. 

If the truth of this conception be granted, does not being man lie 
in being or having been the cosmos itself throughout the whole im- 
mense process by which it was hominized? Could the Word take flesh 
in Mary without having “taken matter," if I may say, in the entire 
cosmos and throughout the whole extent of its history? Could he 
become Incarnate one day, at a certain moment in history, without 
having first been (why should I be the only one afraid of neologisms?) 
Immaterized and Encosmicized during the whole course of the evolu- 
tion which led up to that point? If he made himself man , it is because 
he also made himself world. There you have the “generalization of 
Christ the Redeemer into a veritable Christ the evolutor," or at 
least the only way I can find to give such a formula an intelligible 
meaning. (Did I say intelligible? My tongue has tripped me up: let us 
say rather, almost thinkable.) 

This Christianity turned upside down would be for religious 
thought, if religious thought w r ere to become purely imaginary, a 
grandiose vision, enchanting it with the spectacle of the divine ascent 
of creation toward God. But what does it tell us of the secret path 
which matters more than any spectacle? What can it tell us of the es- 
sential, of the mystery of the cross and the redemptive blood? or of 
that grace whose presence in a single soul is worth more than all of na- 
ture or of that love which makes us co-redeemers with Christ, and 
those blessed tears through which his peace reaches us? The new 
gnosis is, like all gnoses— a poor gnosis . 71 

If, moreover, we wish to get a more complete idea of the Teilhard - 
ian gnosis and of the “reversals of perspective" which it calls for, I 

70 Ibid., p. 732. 

71 See Appendix II, on The Theology of Teilhard. 


12 3 

must cite once more (I do so reluctantly, but the texts are there and, 
though taken from a private letter, they disclose the thought of the 
author with an unquestionable exactness) the aforementioned letter 
to Leontine Zanta, which brings us a few clarifications offered by Pere 
Teilhard himself: "It is not a question/ ” he wrote, "of superimposing 
Christ upon the world, but of 'panchristizing' the Universe. The deli- 
cate point (I have partly touched on it in Christologie et Evolution) 
is that, in pursuing this line of thought, one is led not merely to an 
enlargement of views, but to a reversal of perspectives: Evil (no 
longer punishment for a fault, but 'sign and effect' of Progress) and 
Matter (no longer a guilty and inferior element, but 'the stuff of 
Spirit’) take on a meaning diametrically opposed to the meaning ha- 
bitually considered as Christian . 72 Christ emerges from the transfor- 
mation incredibly exalted (at least I think so— and all the worried 
ones to whom I have spoken of it share my view). But is this still 
really the Christ of the Gospel? And if it is not he, on what, hence- 
forth is based what we seek to build?” 73 

One will observe that to regard matter as a guilty element is a 
platonic notion held to be senseless by the thought "habitually con- 
sidered as Christian.” And although Christian thought believes that 
our condition of fallen nature is the result of original sin, it has never 
held that evil (illness, the loss of a child, any kind of affliction) is al- 
ways "punishment for a fault.” The Lord said just the opposite apro- 
pos of the man born blind. One will notice also that "transformation” 
from which (because it panchristizes 11 the Universe”) Christ emerges 
“incredibly exalted”— he, the Word Incarnate, whose grace, causing 
streams of eternal life to gush forth, raises us to the very life of God. 
Finally, one will note that at one point Pere Teilhard asked himself 
apropos of his cosmic Christ, the question: "Is this still the Christ of 
the Gospel?” (without which, he added, and here we recognize the 
fidelity of his heart, his construction w r ould lack all foundation). But 
his faith in the Christ of the Gospel w r as too strong— and his faith in 
the world too— for him not to be inwardly convinced that the ques- 
tion he asked could only be resolved in the affirmative. "One thing 

71 In the same letter, p. 129, apropos the Esquisse d'un Univers Personnel , 
which he was soon to draw up, he added: “Gradually everything is being trans- 
formed: the moral is fused with the physical, individuality extended into Univer- 
sality, matter becomes the structure of Spirit/’ 

T * Lettrcs A Leontine Z anta, op. cit., pp. 127-128. 



reassures me/' he continues in the same letter, "it is that the growing 
light within me is accompanied by love and by self-renunciation in 
the Greater than me. This could not possibly mislead/' Would that 
such proofs, alas, as noble as they are, could never mislead. The this 
with which Pere Teilhard set his mind at rest did much to confirm 
him in his worst illusions. 

Gilson is probably right in reminding us that the religious experi- 
ence of Pere Teilhard actually counts for much more than his doctrine. 
"Scientific illumination and the cult of evolution, in a manner some- 
what similar to the confused evolutionism of Julian Huxley, invited 
him to conceptualize, in a language that was imprecise although it 
wore a scientific look, a religious experience of whose depth there 
can be no doubt" 74 and which, whatever the tenor of its spiritual 
authenticity or the illusions it may have fostered, was the life of his 
life , 75 but which has been absolutely personal to him, and without 
which moreover, his "doctrine makes no sense." 76 

"That is why," Gilson continues, "I see no danger in store." 77 On 
that point, I am less of an optimist. The religious experience of Pere 
Teilhard was not transmissible, that's perfectly true, but Teilhardism 
is transmissible, and it transmits itself extremely well, with words, 
confused ideas, a mystico-philosophical imagery, and a whole emo- 
tional commotion of huge illusory hopes, which a good many men of 
good faith are ready to accept as a genuinely exalting intellectual 
synthesis and a new theology. 

Yet I have a hunch that this Teilhardian gnosis and its attempt at a 
metachristianity received from the Council a rather heavy blow. For 
when all is said and done, it was nothing for Marx and Engels to turn 

74 Gilson, pp. 735-736. 

75 Thus, to quote Gilson again (op cit. y p. 727), “like a nugget of pure gold, 
his piety and childhood faith” remained always in him, in spite of everything, 
“intact and almost miraculously preserved beneath ceaseless alluvions of science 
and the rest, He himself underlined this continuity. . . . For him the cosmic 
Christ was first of all the Child Jesus, and was always to remain so. The newborn 
of Christmas is exactly the same who became ‘the Child of Bethlehem and the 
Crucified One, the Prime Mover and the collecting Nucleus of the world itself/ ” 
(The passage of Teilhard reproduced here is cited by Claude Cudnot, op cit. 9 
p. 65.) Teilhard felt all this in a spiritual experience in which a good many 
heterogeneous elements were mingled, before attempting to express it in the con- 
ceptualization we have been dealing with above (pp. 115-122). 

7(5 Gilson, p. 728. 

77 Gilson, p. 736. 


12 5 

Hegel upside down, but to turn Christianity upside down so that it is 
no longer rooted in the Trinity and the Redemption but in the evolv- 
ing Cosmos is quite a different matter. No theologian, mystic, or 
meditative scholar, no matter how hard he tries, is equal to that— nor 
even a wonder-worker. It would require the one whom the Creed calls 
the unam y sanctam , catholicam et apostolicam (when you come right 
down to it, it's the Church, isn't it, who teaches Christianity, whether 
“better” or not better Christianity). This means that it would require 
a Council. It is possible that certain Teilhardists, when they heard 
there was to be a Council, looked, if not for a dogmatic confirmation 
of the cosmic Christ (it was obviously too soon for that), at least for 
some encouragement, be it only the shadow of an encouragement, for 
their doctrine. But read the texts of the Council, study them with the 
aid of a magnifying glass, and you won't find there the ghost of a 
shadow of such an encouragement. With a magnanimous serenity, the 
Council utterly and completely ignored this great effort at a “better 
Christianity And nothing could be more classical than its two dog- 
matic Constitutions. If the partisans of Teilhardism did not have 
their head in the clouds, they would realize a little just what this 
means for them. They will have to wait for a new Council, and an- 
other, and Lord knows how many after that. Or else, if their patience 
wears thin, they will go so far as to form themselves into a separate 
sect, as did Marcion and his disciples, at the risk of making Pere Teil- 
hard rise from his grave to condemn them? All that is none too pleas- 

Getting back to Pere Teilhard himself, I would merely like to say in 
conclusion that he has not been well served, either by his friends, his 
enemies, nor in the first place, by himself. What he strove to translate 
into rough drafts or suggestions of a system— and what both friend 
and foe hastened to harden into a doctrine sure of itself, and of its 
power to renew everything— were ideas at work in the very fire of a 
quite peculiar kind of spiritual experience, where the faith of his 
childhood, ardent and vivid until death, struggled with great scientific 
dreams: an experience which, by its very nature, remained strictly in- 

Whatever Teilhard may have done or hoped to do, such ideas, in 
reality, could only find expression as fragments of a vast poem which 
he would have written. One doesn't expect a poem to bring us any 


kind of rational knowledge whatever, be it scientific, philosophical, or 
theological. One expects it only to give us a glimpse of what, in an 
obscure contact, the poet has seized in himself and in things at the 
same time. But we can admire such a poem for its boldness and its 
beauty. And it can awaken in those who love it — particularly the poem 
I am speaking of— fertile ideas and lofty aspirations, and can likewise 
serve to overcome their prejudices and defenses, opening their mind 
to the flame of living faith which burned in the soul of the poet. For 
it is the privilege of poetry to be able to transmit an invisible flame, 
and through the grace of God, a flame of such a nature. 

Well, this poem which Teilhard would have written, and which he 
actually gave us in a kind of travesty, is what his work really was. If 
Teilhard's work had been taken for what it truly was (but which he 
did not want it to be), both his overly zealous friends and those ene- 
mies who were over-anxious to condemn him, would doubtless have 
been disappointed, and he himself the first to protest. But this work 
would have retained its most authentic nobility and dignity, and Teil- 
hard and the Christian world would have been spared not a little 
turmoil and unfortunate misunderstanding. But then there would 
have been no Teilhardism, or mad hope for the advent of a better 
Christianity celebrating the glories of the cosmos. 

There are many, I surmise, whose hearts have been opened to the 
grace of faith by Pere Teilhard de Chardin, or the reading of his books. 
Not only is it fitting that they acknowledge and revere the memory 
of one who was of such help to them, but one can also understand the 
respect and admiration they harbor for his works and for what Gilson 
and I call his gnosis, which no doubt appears to them as a well- 
founded doctrine. Yet it is not to it that they actually owe the gift of 
the truth which sets one free, but to the flame to which I have just 
alluded, and which, from the heart of Pere Teilhard, and through the 
channel of a “theology-fiction," reached them, thanks to the holy 
grace of God and thanks to the grace of poetry, which is not superna- 
tural, but descends also from the Father of lights. 

March 31, 1966 





In the first part of the previous chapter I tried to show that human 
reason, infirm as it may be, is not, of itself, precluded from the possi- 
bility of attaining some day a doctrine essentially grounded in truth , 
with respect to the highest problems man may grapple with in his 
quest for truth, and which pertain to philosophy and theology. Such 
an attainment is something possible, I wrote, it is certainly not some- 
thing probable. I added, however, that the improbable sometimes 

The Catholic Church— who is entrusted only with the deposit of 
faith, but who, in order to maintain it both intact and progressive 
(for here too there is progress, I mean as far as the revealed dogma 
becomes more and more explicit) needs solid judgment and has re- 
ceived a gift of discernment unquestionably superior to that of all her 
professors— seems convinced that, thanks to a singular good fortune, 
the improbable in question has actually occurred as regards theology 
(and philosophy ). 1 And an old peasant like me, who, having not 
been entrusted with any sacred deposit, is obliged to no particular 
prudence, and feels perfectly free to say all he is thinking, has a firm 

1 “So heartily do we approve the great praises accorded this most divine of 
geniuses," declared Pius XI in 1923, “that we think Thomas should be called 
not merely the Angelic Doctor, hut the Common, or Universal Doctor of the 
Church, for the Church has made his doctrine her own." (Encyclical Studiorum 



certitude that such in fact was the case: thanks to a long historical 
development in which Eastern and Western Christianity (even, at a 
given moment, through Islam) were equally engaged, and thanks to 
the exceptional genius— exceptionally favored by the historic moment 
(and by graces from on high)— of a European (alas, one cannot avoid 
being born somewhere) who could never speak any language except 
Neapolitan and Latin (no time for Berlitz) and who never believed 
he had a prophetic mission— but he had read all the Fathers, and “all 
the books/' 2 and he knew the Bible by heart (who knows? that's per- 
haps the case for Bultmann and Vogtle, and our other biblicists). 
And not without weeping and trembling, he found himself invested 
with the gravest of responsibilities: to set in order and integrate the 
immense labor of knowledge and wisdom by means of which the ages 
of faith had sought to acquire some rational understanding of the di- 
vine mystery which had been proclaimed piecemeal by the prophets, 
and in its fullness by the Incarnate Word. “What is God?" the child 
used to ask his teachers at the Abbey of Monte Cassino where, at the 
age of five, he had been presented as an oblate by his parents (who 
already saw him Abbot-Bishop). He never did anything but ask this 

Thomas Aquinas was a man of extraordinary humility; Guillaume 
de Tocco, his first biographer, makes a big point of this. We know 
that at the Convent of Saint-Jacques in Paris he listened to Albertus 
Magnus without once opening his mouth, and that the students 
dubbed him the great Dumb Ox of Sicily. Shortly after, at Cologne, 
where he had followed his teacher, they pitied this silent one until 
the day when a student who had been moved “by compassion" to 
repeat a difficult lesson for him, stumbled all of a sudden, and the 
Dumb Ox serenely explained the whole business to him— truth is first 
served, isn't it? 

It was owing to his meekness of heart and humility, writes Tocco, 
that he was given in contemplation the knowledge of what he taught. 
At the moment of becoming Master in theology, so appalled was he 
by the magnitude of his new responsibility that he could not stop his 
prayers and tears, “because I am forced to receive the dignity of 
Master and I lack the necessary learning." At the end of his life, 

2 La chair est triste, helas , et fai lu torn les Imes. (Mallarm£) “The flesh is sad, 
alas, and I've read all the books.”) 


12 9 

whatever he had written seemed to him “like so much straw.” His 
Master's cap was never for him a matter of the least pride, nor did he 
feel he was failing in his duties toward this cap when, in Bologna, 
panting for breath (he was quite stout) he hurried to keep up with a 
fellow friar whom he accompanied in town and who had called him a 

Each time he set to work, thi^ Doctor wept and prayed a good deal. 
It was near the altat that he would go seeking guidance. With his 
head pressed against the tabernacle, “he would remain there with 
many tears and great sobs, and would then return to his cell and con- 
tinue writing.” He has been above all a contemplative, great among 
the greatest, constantly in touch with heaven through a very pure and 
very humble oraison. Contemplata aliis tradere , is a motto of the 
Dominican Order and it's from St. Thomas that the phrase derives. 
He took it seriously. 

He had, along with that, a good sense of humor, drawing donkey 
heads in the margins of his manuscript when his pen reached the 
name of some particularly esteemed author. Once, when a brother 
beckoned him (for he was thought to be naive) to the window to see 
an ox flying by, he hastened to do so, only to say to the sly one: “It is 
less surprising to see an ox fly than to hear a friar lie.” 

Why have I begun to go on about his character and personality? 
Because I love him. And also, with a hope it will help prepare me a 
little to say something about his doctrine, which I don't feel worthy 
to speak of. 

For here we actually have it, that improbable doctine essentially 
grounded in truth, which, instead of remaining in a state of mere 
possibility, as a virtual goal to which the contrasting efforts of human 
thought tended without attaining it, found itself formed and organ- 
ized at a privileged moment in history, and thanks to a privileged 
genius, in keeping with the habits I have already alluded to of a Provi- 
dence as ironic as it is generous. The doctrine equipped by St. 
Thomas is possessed of all the properties, highly exceptional, one 
may wish for so hazardous a success. It is not the doctrine of one man, 
but the whole labor of tbe Fathers of the Church, the seekers of 
Greece, and the inspired of Israel (without forgetting the prior stages 
crossed by the human mind— nor the contribution made by the Arab 
world) which it brings to unity. And certainly not as though to a dead 

1 3 0 


end! For it is an intelligible organism meant to keep on growing al- 
ways, and to extend across the centuries its insatiable thirst for new 
prey. It is a doctrine open and without frontiers; open to every reality 
wherever it is and every truth from wherever it comes, especially the 
new truths which the evolution of culture or science will enable it to 
bring out (an achievement presupposing that the mind is able to 
transcend for a moment its own conceptual language in order to enter 
the conceptual language of another, and to return from this voyage 
possessed of the intuition by which this other one has lived). It is, 
too, a doctrine open to the various problematics it may see fit to em- 
ploy, whether in the course of time it give rise to them itself or 
whether it goes to seek them out— while renewing them in the light 
of its own fundamental intuitions— in other universes of thought 
formed under other heavens . 3 I like to imagine all that could be 
brought to us by a Hindu who had become a Christian and a disciple 
of St. Thomas, and who would thoroughly know, with a kind of piety 
and filial connaturality, the Vedantic schools of thought and their par- 
ticular ways of intellectual approach. 

And because it is such an open doctrine, a hunger and thirst for 
truth that can never be sated, St. Thomas' doctrine is a doctrine in- 
definitely progressive , and free of all save the true, free with respect 
to itself, to its own imperfections which need correcting and its own 

3 The above can be found excellently stated in a page of Olivier Lacombe. “We 
will not surprise anyone,” he wrote some years ago, “when we say that in our eyes 
St. Thomas Aquinas is, in the age of Doctors, the Doctor par excellence. We think 
his doctrine rests on definite foundations, while remaining progressive and faith- 
fully open to all the increases of truth in man. We do not pretend that the 
disciples of St. Thomas have a right to despise the avenues of discovery, nor the 
fruitful zeal, or the contributions to truth of thinkers and schools who do not 
accept our premises. On the contrary, we are convinced that it is incumbent upon 
us to be that much more attentive to all of this, since we consider these premises 
most certain and most comprehensive. We believe that twenty centuries of the 
life of human reason in the climate of Christian grace have confirmed it in this 
powerful source of truth. Thus hallowed, it affirms itself eminently fruitful. To 
the degree that it stands faithful to an intellectual tradition which has been able, 
by its fullness and depth, to liberate and give a permanent place to the intelligible 
treasures accumulated by Western civilization, we would like to be simply the 
useless servants in whom it will carry out, with respect to the great oriental cultures 
and the new world in the throes of development, the process of creative assimila- 
tion which will reveal to these systems the great human movement their most 
authentic meaning, both for themselves and for the entire human race.” Olivier 
Lacombe, Sagesse (Paris: Descl^e De Brouwer, 1951), pp. 33-34* 


1 3 1 

gaps which need filling, to its formulators and its commentators, and 
even to the very master who founded it; I mean, free of him as he 
was himself, and ready, like him, for the changes and remodelings re- 
quired by a better view of things, and for the enlargings and deepen- 
ings demanded by an inquiry that is always going forward. (Good 
Lord! I am speaking of the doctrine of St. Thomas such as it was in 
him and is in itself— tlje way in which it has sometimes been taught is 
another story.) 

This doctrine comes from the greatest master in realism— an in- 
tegral realism, as aware of the reality of the spirit as of the body— who 
ever lived. In St. Thomas himself (although he was obliged, in order 
to initiate his pupils, to use the methods of the rational a-b-c), this 
doctrine presupposes an inexhaustible center of intuitivity. Its defini- 
tions and its great architectural profiles could not have had such 
justesse (unfailing accuracy, as of one who has been born with a true 
ear and sings in tune), had he not been also the poet to whom we 
owe the liturgy of the feast of Corpus Christi. And even as regards his 
conclusions, one often feels he had seen them before demonstrating 

What I have just called a rational a-b-c— questions, articles, num- 
bered objections, the body of the article, numbered responses— is 
actually (for intuitivity never suffices) the innocent externals of a 
marvelous living network of intellectual rigor (yet simpler when one 
reads St. Thomas himself, than his successors had led one to believe) 
which taught the modern world what scientia and the uncompromis- 
ing honesty of the ways of knowing are. 

So much for the properties which even our well-bred contempo- 
raries could discern in his doctrine if they deigned to come near it. I 
am told that they are repelled by his vocabulary. Why be astonished 
that men who understand Hegel, Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre so 
well find themselves somewhat terrorized by scholasticist rigor, when 
they however know' perfectly well that every science has its technical 
vocabulary'? Let us hope that instead of reading the Summa , they 
don't run into some Thomist textbook; this time we would sincerely 
sympathize with them. But I will come back to this point. For the mo- 
ment, I would simply like to note that the properties I have just been 
discussing derive from something much more profound: what the 
doctrine of St. Thomas is in its purest flame, and about which I can- 


not avoid trying to say something, however clumsy (this is no rhetori- 
cal apology, believe me; the old philosopher knows himself a little 
better than that). 


St. Thomas was a theologian, absorbed all his life in sacra doctrina, 
and his whole work is essentially a work of theology. It wasn't his job 
to say “I'm right" where another man is wrong, but, on the contrary, 
to preserve and assimilate the whole truth (with a fair amount of 
junk and blunders which had to be weeded out), carried along by an 
immense tradition. Hence his sacred respect for all the Fathers— -in 
particular for St. Augustine, whose ways of approach, however, were 
not his, and consisted more in a loving meditation on the things of 
God than in the search for an elucidation strictly grounded in reason. 
His relation to St. Augustine is particularly worth examining. “It can 
be said of Augustinianism that its substance passed completely into 
the Summa” 4 With a good deal of touching up, we need hardly add. 
Indeed St. Thomas simply busied himself, in keeping with his office 
as a theologian, in bringing to light and saving the truth which was 
concealed in such and such a thesis stated in terms he did not accept. 
The task which fell to his lot was to save all truths which had been 
asserted (often badly asserted) prior to him. 

And yet he overturned all the habits and routines of the School- 
men, and struck his contemporaries by the astonishing novelty of 
his teachings. “A new method," wrote Tocco, “new reasons, new 
points of doctrine, a new order of questions." Here was a first-class 

How is this paradox to be explained? Oh, it's no conjurer's trick. It 
is enough that we should think of the extraordinary philosophic 
genius of St. Thomas. St. Thomas was a theologian, that is, someone 
who uses his reason to acquire some understanding of the mysteries 
of faith. And what instrument does such a task call for? A philosophy. 

4 Etienne Gilson, op. cit. y pp. 697-698. 



And not any kind of philosophy, but— especially when it is a question 
of bringing theology to the state of a genuine scientia or articulated 
knowledge grounded in truth— a philosophy which is itself grounded 
in truth. In the hands of a theologian, philosophy is only an instru- 
ment, an ancilla. But this instrument is very necessary— just as a 
rocket is for an astronaut who seeks to explore interplanetary space. 
Without the appropriate. instrument, nothing good can be done. 

St. Thomas knew' that perfectly well. And he knew, likewise, that 
Plato, in the course of the preceding centuries of Christianity, had not 
done such a good job of it. Because St. Thomas was a theologian , he 
was careful in choosing , and choosing well , his philosopher (here he 
was helped by Master Albert and a singular good turn of history— the 
introduction of the works of Aristotle into the medieval schools 
through the intermediary of the Arabs); and he was not content with 
choosing his philosopher; he made him over from head to toe . 

It is St. Thomas 7 connection with Aristotle that it is now worth 
our while to consider. To say, as so many professors are fond of doing, 
that the philosophy of St. Thomas is the philosophy of Aristotle is a 
gross error, as Gilson has rightly insisted. The philosophy of St. 
Thomas is that of St. Thomas. And it would be as big a mistake to 
deny that St. Thomas owes his philosophy to Aristotle, as Dante owes 
his language to the fine raconteurs of his country. Such an extraordi- 
nary conjunction of swift insight (one must be something of a poet 
for that) with ironclad logical rigor may be found in Aristotle too; be- 
cause he was, in the world of philosophers, both the greatest realist 
and most perspicacious discoverer of the first apperceptions of the in- 
tellect, and the strictest instructor in the unforgiving exigencies of a 
rigorously rational work, the founder of metaphysics furnished the 
principles. He missed, however, those conclusions whose object is the 
loftiest and which matter most to us. But St. Thomas did not just 
sift out or rectify conclusions— which would, after all, have been a 
minor contribution. He was possessed of an incomparably deeper vi- 
sion of the principles themselves; his metaphysical intuition impelled 
the one he was always to call “the Philosopher’ 7 infinitely beyond 
Aristotelianism and the whole of Greek thought. 

St. Thomas did not stop short at eus— the “be-ing” (“das 
miende ” “i’etanf”) — but went straight to esse, (“Sein” *T6tre”), to 
the act of existing. (A pity, I've already observed, that Heidegger 

J 34 


couldn't see that.) I apologize for having recourse to a technical vo- 
cabulary, but for once it is necessary. A metaphysics of the "be-ing" 
(“ das seiende ,” " Vetant ”) stops on the way; a metaphysics of the 
good or of the one , both of which are passiones entis or "transcenden- 
tal properties" of being, remains in an inevitably partial or fragmen- 
tary perspective, and is thus put on a wrong track from the outset. 
Quite another thing is required. The metaphysics of St. Thomas is 
not the metaphysics of Aristotle, because it is the metaphysics of 
Aristotle entirely transfigured. In other words, St. Thomas the theo- 
logian has, in the service of theology, humbly and without putting in a 
claim, brought metaphysical wisdom to the most basic and universal 
degree of intuitive grasp possible to reason. A metaphysics of “Sein” 
{esse), a metaphysics born from the intuition of the act of existing— 
and whose primary object is this primordial and all-embracing intel- 
ligible reality— has the capacity to welcome, recognize, honor, set to 
rights all that is. 

And it is because that faithful servant, human wisdom, instrument- 
ally used— the metaphysics of St. Thomas (not that of Aristotle) 
—had the intuition of being and saw in esse her chief object, that the 
higher wisdom— the theology of St. Thomas— was able to contem- 
plate in the trans-luminous obscurity of the mysteries of Faith the 
Uncreated Cause of being as Being itself subsisting by itself , ipsum 
Esse per se subsisten , to which the handmaid had already lifted her 
eye as toward her ultimate end. 

"To conceive God," writes Gilson, "as the Act of being pure and 
subsisting by itself, cause and end of all other beings, is by the same 
token to give oneself a theology that can do justice to whatever is 
true in other theologies, just as the metaphysics of esse has what is 
needed to do justice to whatever is true in other philosophies. Be- 
cause it includes all of them, this theology of the uncreated Act of 
being, or of the God whose proper name is I Am, is as true as all of 
them together and truer than any one of them taken separately. Here 
is, if I am not mistaken, the secret reason for the choice the Church 
has made of St. Thomas Aquinas as her Common Doctor." 5 

As for the metaphysics which supports such a theology, and with- 
out which the latter would not have been (it is this metaphysics 
which, from the side of reason, provided the indispensable spark), let 

5 “Trois logons sur 1c Thomisme,” op. cit ., p. 700. 



us cite further the lines of our friend: “For those who live on it, the 
metaphysics of the Common Doctor accepted in its fullness is a 
ne plus ultra for the understanding. At once unsurpassable in its 
own right and inexhaustible in its consequences, this metaphysics is 
the human understanding itself in its permanent work of rational in- 
terpretation of man and the universe /' 6 

That brings us to a^ final consideration which deserves a word or 
two, however nonsensical this may seem to those who think (if one 
dare use the word with respect to them) that the only conceivable 
capacity of being up-to-date is that with which topical gazettes, stop- 
press news, or news reels are endowed, let us say that only such 
actualiteSy as they say in French, have the attribute of up-to-dateness. 
Well, we are thus led to consider briefly the relation of St. Thomas 
with time. Please pardon me for being myself out-of-date: there is an 
up-to-dateness which, while bound to manifest itself in time, is, of 
itself, above time, that's the up-to-dateness of truth. The Doctrine 
of St. Thomas, being essentially grounded in truth, and therefore, as I 
have already pointed out, open to the whole future, has, of itself, a 
supra-temporal up-to-dateness. 

Alas, I just said that the up-to-dateness of truth, which is, of itself, 
above time, must manifest itself in time. In other words, the doc- 
trine of St. Thomas was bound to manifest in time— after St. Thomas 
—its supra-temporal truth. If it fell short of this somewhat too often, 
it is not the fault of St. Thomas, who was dead. It’s the fault of his 
disciples, for which w r e arc paying today. But this needs looking into 
more closely and I will come back to it later. 


Another fault of St. Thomas' disciples (I am speaking of “disci- 
ples” in general— with certain exceptions, of course) lay in not striv- 
ing to sift out, for its own sake, the philosophy of St. Thomas, by 
expounding it in its own nature and with its own gait, which by defi- 
nition have nothing theological about them. (In him, it was present 
in the most real and deepest manner, but as underlying his theology 
and enveloped by it.) St. Thomas’ disciples have, to be sure, spoken a 
6 lbid. y p. 707. 


good deal about Thomist philosophy, and have taught it, in magiste- 
rial commentaries, courses, and textbooks where, more often than 
not, they were content to pick up, in the theological exposition of 
St. Thomas, the philosophical substance which can be found there — 
brought there to the light of theology and enveloped in theology: a 
substance splendidly rich, but all theologized in the use St. Thomas 
had made of it. Once one had extracted this substance from the theo- 
logical exposition of the master, one had only to trace off the formu- 
las, often the very order of exposition, to offer in handsome syllogisms 
some philosophical thesis or other, nay, “the philosophic doctrine” 
of the Angel of the Schools . 7 

This “Thomist philosophy” was no theology, since they had with- 
drawn it from the light proper to theology to transfer it into the king- 
dom of reason using only its natural powers. Still less was it a philos- 
ophy, since it remained structured after the theological treatise from 
which it emerged, and possessed neither the gait and method, nor the 
light characteristic of philosophical research. Without the character- 
istic light of theology, and that proper to philosophical research, it 
had practically no light at all. The via inventionis or way of discovery, 
which is essential to philosophy, was ignored; so too, was the pro- 
cedure proper to philosophy, which has its starting point in experi- 
ence and a prolonged intercourse with the world and with sensible 
reality. The characteristic atmosphere in which philosophy takes 
shape, which is the atmosphere of curiosity where it dwells with its 
fellow sciences, and from which it raises itself to the purer and more 
rarefied atmosphere of what comes meta ta physica , was equally ab- 
sent. Most important was the absence of the light from which philos- 
ophy originates, which is intuitive before being and in order to be 
discursive, and is transferred point by point all during the reasoning 

Leaving in the oblivion they deserve a number of more or less medi- 
ocre textbooks, let us choose instead a work of great merit, drawn up 

7 There were certainly, as I have observed, exceptions, although rare to my 
knowledge. When it comes to overall expositions which have genuine philosophic 
value, I will name here old Kleutgen, from whom, at one time, I benefited, and in 
particular two excellent books: P£re Garrigou-Lagrange’s La Philosophic de Vetre 
et le Sens commun, and Gilson's The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy. 

It is Brentano, a somewhat aberrant disciple, who in the last century had taken 
the most remarkable initiative; but, because he neglected what mattered most, it 
took a sharp turn with him, and a very bad turn in Germany, with those who made 
what they had received from him veer in the direction of phenomenology. 



in the most precise and conscientious fashion. We will find a perfect 
model of the genre— this kind of Thomist philosophy— in the E/e- 
merrta philosophiae aristotelico -thomist icae of the good Pere Gredt. 
It is a precious repository of information, which we have only to con- 
sult should we want to know what St. Thomas thought on some 
given point. But how it was ever possible to have worked out such a 
conclusion, that's another st.qry. We have in our hands an aerolite 
which has fallen from the sky, with everything we need to know writ- 
ten on it. 

Given a chance to reveal its own nature, Thomistic philosophy ex- 
hibits the gait and demeanor characteristic of all philosophy; a de- 
meanor and gait fully at liberty to confront the real. The philosopher 
swears fidelity to no person, nor any school — not even, if he is a 
Thomist, to the letter of St. Thomas and every article of his teaching. 
He is sorely in need of teachers and of a tradition, but in order for 
them to teach him to think when he looks at things (which is not as 
simple as all that), and not, as is the case with the theologian, so that 
he can assume the whole of this tradition into his thought. Once this 
tradition has instructed him, he is free of it and makes use of it for 
his own work. In this sense, he is alone in the face of being; for his job 
is to think over that which is. 

As for the method he must follow, it is obvious that the state- 
ment of problems, the research, and the discovery 7 come before sys- 
temization. Even, before he undertakes direct research (and the 
struggle with things, and discussion, and controversy, and finally the 
doctrinal synthesis toward which he tends, all of which go to make up 
his characteristic work) the most normal way for approach for him is 
by historical inquiry— yet not simply historical, for he already has, to 
be sure, his own idea and perhaps his system of reference in the back 
of his mind (and history alone is not enough to bear judgment); his 
most normal way of approach is historical and critical examination of 
what has been thought before him. (Here too we can take lessons 
from Aristotle.) This method of procedure is merely introductory, 
but it is very necessary both for teaching and for research. 

Finally, the root principle on which everything hangs for the phil- 
osopher, assuming he is a Thomist, and a metaphysician, is that in- 
tellectual intuition of being about which I have already had a good 
deal to say. Here I would like to make two remarks. The first con- 
cerns this intuition itself. It has, as I observed earlier, nothing in com- 


mon with Bergsonian intuition, and it presupposes a more strenuous, 
at least quite resolute intellectualism. Nor does it have anything in 
common with any kind whatsoever of charismatic intuition. It takes 
place in the heart of the most natural exercise of the intellect, and 
its only charisma is its simplicity — the mysterious simplicity of intel- 
lection. There is nothing simpler than to think I am , I exist , this blade 
of grass exists; this gesture of the land, this captivating smile that the 
next instant will hurry away, exist; the world exists. The all-important 
thing is for such a perception to sink deeply enough within me that 
my awareness of it will strike me some day sharply enough (at times, 
violently) to stir and move my intellect up to that very world of 
preconscious activity, beyond any word or formula, and with no 
assignable boundaries, which nourishes everything within it. Such a 
descent to the very depths of the soul is doubtless something given , 
not worked out — given by the natural grace of the intellectual nature. 

And then, if luck should take a hand, and if the eye of conscious- 
ness, sufficiently accustomed to the half-light, should penetrate a lit- 
tle, like a thief, this limbo of the preconscious, it can come about 
that this simple I am will seem like a revelation in the night— a se- 
cret revelation which will awaken echoes and surprises on all sides and 
give a hint of the inexhaustible ampleness it permits one to attain. 

And there can be instances, as I noted in the foregoing chapter, 
where this experience is genuinely present in someone who takes no 
notice of it, either because it remains involved in the more or less 
superficial layers of consciousness, or because, as with children, it 
takes place only in the preconscious of the spirit. 

It is in a judgment (or in a preconscious act equivalent to an un- 
formulated judgment), and in a judgment of existence, that the in- 
tellectual intuition of being occurs. The philosophical concept of the 
actus essendi , of the act of existence, will only come later. And the 
more profound and pure the intuition, the more accurate and com- 
prehensive (barring accidents) will be the conceptualization of the 
various discoveries philosophy will be able to make by scrutinizing 
the real in the light of this absolutely fundamental principle . 8 

8 “The more vital and central the intuition, the more chances its conceptualiza- 
tion has to express it uprightly; the more it is limited, the more conceptualization 
risks betraying it/' writes Louis Gardet (on the subject of primary intuitions in 
general), in his penetrating study, “Plurality of Philosophies and Unity of Truth,” 
Nova et Vetera, IV, 1965, p. 268. 



My second observation bas to do with Bergson. I have stated that 
the intellectual intuition of being has nothing in common with 
Bergsonian intuition, which was spoiled by a quite accidental, I think, 
anti-intellectualism, and which Bergson described as a kind of inef- 
fable sympathy demanding a torsion of the will upon itself. Further- 
more, this Bergsonian intuition did not focus directly on being, but 
only on duration which is but one of the aspects of being r and which 
served him as a kind of substitute for being. Having said that, one 
must add that through the experience of duration it was actually 
being, esse , which, without being aware of it, he attained. In any case, 
Thomism is greatly indebted to him; for if the intuition of being has 
nothing to do with Bergsonian intuition, it is nevertheless thanks to 
the impact of the latter, and of Bergson's metaphysical genius, on 
modem thought (Pere J.-H. Nicolas observes that the “real knowl- 
edge" of Blondel also played its part in the matter) that contempo- 
rary Thomists have at last recognized (not without opposition, nor 
yet unanimously; there are not that many metaphysicians in the 
world) the essential and absolutely rockbottom importance of the in- 
tuition of being in their own philosophy . 9 From this point of view, 
one ought to consider Bergson a great liberator. 

To wind up my reflections on Thomistic philosophy restored to its 
proper nature as philosophy, let me say that in my judgment, even 
though, in this last third of the twentieth century, it does not enjoy 
the favors of fashion, it is actually in pretty good shape. In saying 
this, I am thinking of its intrinsic development and of the various 
kinds of research it has stimulated. I have in mind particularly the 
progress which is owed to it (thanks to the investigations of Olivier 
Lacombe and Louis Gardet) in the understanding of Oriental thought 
(and a good understanding, too, with its representatives) and in an 
authentic theory (the only one) of natural mystique. Nevertheless, 

9 I am pleased to be able to invoke here the authority of the Rev. Jean-Hervd 
Nicolas. See his remarkable article in the Revue Thomiste (1947-1) “The Intui- 
tion of Being and the First Principles”; where he notes, in particular, the important 
text of St. Thomas on metaphysical knowledge (in Boet. de Trin., q. 6, a.i.) in 
which the word iniellcctus must be translated as "intellectual intuition.” His 
conclusion is that by obliging 'Iliomists “to become more keenly aw^are of this 
ovcrrly neglected aspect of their metaphysics, the new philosophies which have 
developed alongside of theirs . . . have rendered them an immense service from 
which, along with Thomism, Christian thought in general has profited. These new 
philosophies have awakened them from their abstractive slumber.” 



we must admit that at the moment it is suffering from a great lack; it 
has not yet re-elaborated the philosophy of nature which is one of its 
indispensable ingredients. It’s no consolation to tell oneself that the 
whole of contemporary thought is afflicted with the same lack; nor 
that the scientists, whose very achievements have confronted them 
with so many problems (and whom no intellectual counterfeit 
money, moreover, can fool for very long) are clamoring the loudest, 
though in vain, for this philosophy of nature, which stubbornly re- 
fuses to appear. As for Thomism, its philosophy of nature has needed 
reshaping for a long time. The task (a vanished dream of my youth) 
is certainly not impossible, but it is difficult in the highest degree. Yet 
I am confident it will be done. It would require a team in which 
scientists and philosophers would work together, and which would be 
led by a competent philosopher. Such a philosopher seems to be im- 
probable? I don't think so, his name is on the tip of my tongue . 10 

Even then, a fair amount of patience will be required. What will 
also be needed— and here is the diabolus in musica— is an uncanny 
sense of the requirements of that “subtle and delicate" art which 
consists in distinguishing in order to unite. I am not about to launch 
out here into the intricate problems of epistemology. I will simply 
note that the sciences of nature, all of them, have a hold on the real 
insofar only as it can be observed (or within the limits of the observa- 
ble). Although very far from forming a whole company of the same 
tenor from the epistemological point of view, they are all, therefore, 
equally dependent upon an intellection of an “empiriological" order 
(whether simply empiriological or empirio-mathematical ). 11 They 
are “sciences of phenomena." The philosophy of nature, by contrast, 
is dependent upon a type of intellection which, through the observa- 
ble, or through signs apprehended in experience, attains the real in its 
very being, and must be called an intellection of an ontological order 
(the most natural kind of intellection, to tell the truth; the other 
kind requires a more particular sort of mental training and discipline) . 
The functioning of thought, and the conceptual vocabulary, then, are 
typically different in the sciences of nature and in the philosophy of 
nature. The error of antiquity was to believe that the functioning of 
thought and the conceptual lexicon proper to the philosophy of na- 

10 The author was thinking of Claude Tresmontant. [Trans.] 

11 I am using here the vocabulary of The Degrees of Knowledge. 


1 4 1 

ture extended to the sciences of nature. The error of certain modem 
scientists, insofar as they are in search of a philosophy, is to believe 
that the kind of thinking and conceptual vocabulary proper to the 
sciences of nature can serve to build a philosophy of nature. We arc 
faced here with two different keyboards. If a Thomistic philosophy of 
nature should some day take shape, as I hope, it will only be by hav- 
ing a clear awareness of this distinction. It is first and foremost 
through such an avVareness (even more than from the novelty of the 
scientific material employed, completely transformed by the advent 
of modern science) that it will be a philosophy of nature entirely re- 
newed (although retaining the same philosophical perspective) with 
respect to that of St. Thomas and his age. In the team which will 
work at such a renewal, each man must be able to use (with relative 
ease) two typewriters, one equipped with a certain keyboard, the 
other with a quite different keyboard— one that his discipline has 
made familiar to him, and the other which, as a man of good will, he 
will have to leam how to use rather late in the day . 12 The philoso- 
phers should know how to use, at least as amateurs, the machine 
equipped with the scientific keyboard, and the scientists the one 
equipped with the philosophic keyboard. May the angels of true 
knowledge be there to help them! 


Between faith and reason, as between grace and nature, there is an 
essential distinction ; and one sometimes tends to lose sight of it. 
(Much more often today because we are too dull, now that we have 
been so well instructed, to understand what to distinguish really 
means. With dialectic and the elimination of “natures” in behalf of 
becoming, isn't it as plain as day that everything is different because 
everything is the same, and that the more thresholds there are to be 
crossed along the discontinuous, the more the continuity of the uni- 
versal movement which goes on by itself becomes obvious and 

But between faith and reason, as between grace and nature, there is 
no separation. One tends sometimes to overlook that, too (much 

12 Sec, at the end of the book, Appendix 3, Short Epistemological Digression. 



more often in the old days; quite a few of our ancestors were as dull 
as we, and once two concepts were seated on the chairs of a reliable 
distinction, they found it too tiring to raise those concepts from their 
seats and make them embrace one another). 

Whatever the dullness of our ancestors and of a good many of us, 
things are that way, and so is life: there is distinction without separa- 

Reason has its own domain, and faith hers. But reason can enter 
the domain of faith by bringing there its need to ask questions, its 
desire to discover the internal order of the true, and its aspiration to 
wisdom— that's what happens with theology. And faith can enter the 
domain of reason, bringing along the help of a light and a truth which 
are superior, and which elevate reason in its own order— that is what 
happens with Christian philosophy. (Conventional words like "Chris- 
tian philosophy" and "Christian politics" are rather annoying, for they 
seem— people like to be misled— to clericalize a thing secular by na- 
ture, and to pin a denominational label on it. "Philosophy in faith" 
sounds a little better perhaps than "Christian philosophy," but also 
lends itself to misinterpretation. In the last analysis, whatever word 
you use presupposes some intelligence in the hearer.) 

Let us leave aside the somewhat incongruous name by which the 
Christian Scientists are designated. Apart from this rather odd sect, 
one could not possibly speak of "Christian science," because science is 
concerned only with phenomena, and the latter, as Pierre Termier 
said, "don't look Christian," any more than does the eye or the micro- 
scope which observes them. But philosophy is concerned with what is 
beneath phenomena. And faith, with He who is. Metaphysics is con- 
cerned with prime truths, and faith with others more prime still. 
Why should it be normal for them to ignore one another? 

After all, a Christian can be a philosopher. And if he believes 
that, in order to philosophize, he should lock his faith up in a strong- 
box— that is, should cease being a Christian while he philosophizes 
— he is maiming himself, which is no good (all the more as philoso- 
phizing takes up the better part of his time) . He is also deluding him- 
self, for these kinds of strongboxes have always poor locks. But if, 
while he philosophizes, he does not shut his faith up in a strongbox, 
he is philosophizing in faith, willy-nilly. It is better that he should be 
aware of it. 



When one becomes aware of it, then one is forced to admit that 
there is a “Christian philosophy/' It is philosophy, and its work is a 
work of reason ; but it is in a better position to perform its work of 
reason. Not only does faith place in our path certain signals (“Dan- 
ger: Winding Roads,” etc.), thanks to which our little saloon-car runs 
less risks. But, above all, faith can help us from within to overcome 
allurements and irrational djcams to which, without assistance 
coming from a soifrce superior to reason, we would be disposed to 
yield. In all honesty, then, given the general conditions, hardly very 
promising for reason, in which our fallen nature finds itself, the state 
or “situation” of Christian philosophy should be regarded as the most 
desirable state or “situation” for philosophy among the children of 
Adam. Which doesn’t mean that a Christian philosopher cannot err 
as seriously as any other— faith may cause philosophic minds insuf- 
ficiently robust to run other risks. Nay more, the remnants of ances- 
tral faith (but then it is a question of philosophies which falsely 
proclaim themselves Christian, or are no longer Christian at all) 
throw into most serious dangers strong-minded rationalist doctrinari- 
ans, who fancy, like Hegel and some others after his pontificate, they 
have to assume the whole burden of old theologies now supposedly 

St. Thomas had a sound mind, and it was he who really taught us to 
distinguish without ever separating. If we think of the various traits of 
his philosophy I have been trying to recall, and of how, in building 
this philosophy for himself, he transfigured the metaphysics of 
Aristotle — with no intention of curbing reason before faith, but in or- 
der to goad reason into a better control of its own realm, and a de- 
cisive awareness of the absolutely basic principle of the opus 
philosophicum — perhaps we will begin to suspect that the philosophy 
of St. Thomas (and especially his metaphysics) is not merely a 
Christian philosophy, but is the Christian philosophy par excellence. 

People who, for all their intelligence, are inclined to believe that 
everything repeats itself, are naturally tempted to grow impatient 
with the privilege thus conceded to a philosophy about which, more- 
over, they know little or nothing. Shouldn’t theology do with the 
modern philosophers what St. Thomas did with Aristotle? That’s 
obvious, isn’t it? One hears this inept question today on all sides. It 
is inept for a good many reasons. The first is that to do with Hegel 



what St. Thomas did with Aristotle would involve, in the first place, 
taking on the job of making over Hegel from head to toe. Just let 
them try it, they will break their teeth. One can make over from top to 
bottom a philosopher who, while he fell short of his goal, was well on 
his way, i.e., was truly in the axis to look at the real. With a philoso- 
pher (ideosopher) who is only in the axis of the Idea, it's surely not 
so easy; especially if this ideosopher regards himself as the summit of 
the whole of human thought and the revealer of ultimate wisdom. 
Nor is it any simple matter with a crowd of philosophers (ideosophers 
who, unaware of any tradition other than that of their immediate 
predecessors in a given line, offer us only individual attempts and, 
like a good many of our contemporary thinkers, grow increasingly re- 
signed to vanishing into thin air like fireflies that glow for but an in- 
stant. There have, in fact, actually been attempts at Cartesian theo- 
logies, Malebranchian theologies, Kantian theologies and Hegelian 
theologies, and they didn't shed much light within the Church. For 
the time being, it is with any run-of-the-mill kind of phenomenologi- 
cal product that Our creative geniuses are working. It would be no 
small job for theology, assuming it continued to believe itself charged 
with teaching men how to gain some rational understanding of the 
eternal Truth revealed in faith— to be forced to re-design its models 
every season like manufacturers of motorcars. 

But none of this has much effect on the clerics and the friars, or in- 
deed on the innocent laymen who are at grips with the question: why 
not repeat with the thinkers of today what St. Thomas did with 
Aristotle, so as to be rid of those two spoil-sports? To tell the truth, 
the matter is more serious than it seems. Let us try to discern what, 
fundamentally (and unconsciously, doubtless, for a good many) lies 
concealed beneath this question. It is what, with a completely changed 
idea of theology, one could call a fideism gone astray. I will sum up 
in three points what I mean by this. 

Primo. According to this fideism, theology is not, as we have been 
led to believe for so long, a rational knowledge through which human 
reason humbly penetrates, as far as it can (and always progressing, as 
it should), the Truth which came out from the mouth of God in the 
mysteries of faith. For not only does faith transcend reason, but rea- 
son is powerless to do a genuine work of knowledge (that is, a work 
of rational knowledge solidly enough established— on a rock— to go 



on progressing forever) by scrutinizing in some fashion, in their eter- 
nal and intrinsic depths, the truths which faith conveys to us and 
whose custody belongs to the Church. The theologian, however, lifts 
his eyes toward faith. 

Secundo. Does this mean that in order to contemplate these mys- 
teries, he already is in the mystical transforming union? No, ap- 
parently not. He is a $ehplar v jand, even while lifting his eyes toward 
faith, he makes use of reason, and thus also of philosophy (and the 
treasures of an erudition as vast and caviling as possible). But since 
faith is supposed to be, of itself, averse to reason, and to a work of 
knowledge accomplished by means of reason, the theologian can and 
should, in looking at faith, make use of any philosophy whatever, once 
it is that of his times. For it isn't at all a matter of understanding 
better, thanks to reason, or of managing in some way (always and in- 
definitely progressive) to know the things (immutably true) faith 
reveals to us. It is a matter (what a much humbler attitude for reason 
to have, isn't it?) of reinterpreting for each age, by means of the phi- 
losophy of the age, faith itself, with the things (mutably true) it 
brings us to know. This time, the handmaid becomes mistress. And 
the original fideism of theology conceived in this way is taken in tow 
by a dynamic philosophism which gives theology the bliss to which it 
aspires: to be a child of its times. What better fate could one ask for 
a theology essentially “pastoral"? (The blame is not mine if this ven- 
erable word has been prostituted by so many zealous journalists.) 

Tertio. Why then all the fuss? Because, while the object of theology 
continues to remain the truth of the mysteries of faith (but a truth 
henceforth mutable in its intelligible value and meaning, at times 
mythical if necessary)— and also, of course, the truths of erudition 
(absolute, these ones, if only for the moment)— nevertheless, the 
ultimate purpose of theology, finally, has become no longer Truth but 
Efficacy. Here we are at last. Thus it is that with the new notion of 
theology which underlies the grand question I have irreverently, 
though not unreasonably, described as inept, we are dealing with a 
fideism gone astray. 

At first glance, this analysis may seem somewhat harsh. But if one 
gives it a little serious thought, one will find it hard to challenge its 

Theology should be of its time, yes, that's true, but in an entirely 


different sense, and provided one preserves it or re-establishes it in its 
very’ essence: an effort to understand, as far as one can, and to connect 
together in a rational whole the truths of faith, in view of that su- 
preme end which is Truth, not Efficacy. Besides we must also bear in 
mind that the object of any knowledge is one with its end. 

“For us to repeat what Thomas Aquinas did” means, in reality, “to 
descend once more from revealed truth to the philosophies of our 
time in order to enlighten them, purify them,” and ransom the truths 
they hold captive. “An immense task,” as Gilson 13 wrote, “but one 
in which Thomas Aquinas has gone before us and can still show us 
the way.” 


In this immense task, he can of course show us the way, provided 
we go forward with him. And this is dreadfully urgent. This is one of 
the most necessary renewals called for by the true fire that the Holy 
Spirit has kindled, and with which the flame throwers of the Council 
have disturbed so many slumbers. A few Thomists did not wait to set 
out en route (a small flock, yet fairly robust indeed, and where young 
searchers are not lacking, but, as always, operarii pauci , operatives are 
few). The fact remains that if one wishes to be led by someone, one 
can't afford to stay put, and when it comes to this particular task, it is 
true that Thomists have too often remained comfortably seated in 
their magisterial chairs. 

I don't much relish talking about this because, when one speaks in 
general terms, as I have been forced to do in this book, it is impossible 
to avoid a certain amount of injustice. I'm not much, but what would 
I be without the undeserved luck of having been taught by masters 
like Pere Clerissac, Pere Dehau and Pere Garrigou-Lagrange, and, 
among those still with us whose names I will omit out of respect for 
their modesty, a humble Cardinal to whom I owe everything I know 
about the Church, and who would still be an unassuming priest and 
seminary professor (he still is a seminary professor) but for the per- 
spicacity of Pope Paul VI? 

Why then should I go out of my way to pick a quarrel with the 
Thomists? Because the old peasant spares nothing, that's why. Espe- 

13 Op. cit.j p. 706 



ciallv not the immobilism which, since the canonization of St. 
Thomas (prior to that, his doctrine had, of course, been attacked and 
slandered by his brothers at Oxford and by the bishop of Paris, 
Etienne Tempier), has allowed Thomism to become learnedly ossi- 

If one speaks ill of the past, especially in the precious and ungrate- 
ful world of today, there is a certain fear of being what Sartre calls 
un salaud , a dirty dog. Yet we must recognize that glory has its dan- 
gers, and so docs the lofty mission of recognized defenders of the 
truth. A great School, with celebrated teachers and renowned uni- 
versities, was hard put to maintain the studious humility which had 
played so essential a role in the life and work of St. Thomas. The 
doctoral cap which St. Thomas set so little store by soon became a 
sacred emblem, crowning teachers whose word was law. (Yet they 
were, after all, only professors; and how much good it might do them 
—as, in principle, it would every professor— to go every now and then 
and refresh their experience of reality by milking cows or by pushing a 
plow. ) 

All that I just said is in no way concerned with the matter of per- 
sonal humility. It is the office to be filled which knew too well its own 
greatness. To be in the retinue of the queen of sciences includes of 
necessity lofty duties, and it is only fitting that a Master of theology 
be penetrated by these feelings. I once had occasion to meet a most 
worthy theologian, plain dealing, childlike, humble and charitable, 
and who was not lacking in a sense of humor, about whom I was told 
a good story. In a course on moral theology (on the question of the 
lesser evil, I suspect) an example suggested itself to him. “Let us im- 
agine,” he told his students (his skill in mimicry used to delight 
them), “that I am on a ship which is about to go down and there is 
only one lifeboat. Naturally, I say to myself: it's up to me to sacrifice 
myself, for tire man standing next to me is the father of a family. 

. . . But I think it over for a moment, and it occurs to me: I am a 
Master in theology, valde utilis sanctae Ecclesiae ! Then, it is a matter 
of duty', isn't it, to get into the lifeboat before the others. . . 

This story is told only in jest (but it is true). The haughtiness with 
which a great lord of the mind like Cajetan addresses “apprentices” re- 
mains inscribed in his Commentary on the Sumirui. When one's 
function is to teach the loftiest wisdom, it is difficult to resist the 


temptation to believe that until you have spoken, nothing has been 
said. As a dispositio animae , this is hardly conducive to restless in- 
quiry, or progress, or the wish to examine the feeble efforts of the 
common herd. I number among theologians a good many dear friends 
of whom exactly the opposite would have to be said; their humility, 
even their “professional” humility, has won my admiration. But the 
history of the brotherhood gives one no reason to think that such has 
generally been the case. The most curious aspect of the matter is that 
those who today are throwing out St. Thomas and the rest, and nour- 
ishing themselves with the bread of existentialism or demythization 
in order to come up with hypotheses in the grand manner, seem to 
have inherited from their ancestors only an instinctive persuasion of 
the professional superiority of their own pronouncements. 

There were, in the past, a good many excuses for this. I like to 
think back to the age of the great jousts and controversies when it was 
up to the Thomists to trade blows with the Scotists or Suarezians. 
These nice tournaments made it possible to safeguard precious 
truths and to deepen doctrine (sometimes in hardening it, or making 
it labyrinthine). Those men knew their business. How pleased I am 
with that Dominican— his name, I think, was Thomas de Lemos— 
who, in the course of the celebrated debates de auxiliis held in the 
presence of the Pope, so ardently flung his arms about scientia 
media that he had to be shut up in a glass cage. Yet, the fact remains 
that scholastic disputations, oratorical argumentation, the play of 
concepts, the victorious art of distinguo, and didacticism gained the 
upper hand so well that Thomists made little advance in their own 
line, hardly daring to change classical positions when the need arose, 
as St. Thomas would have done had he been present. As a result, 
when modern philosophy and modern science began (and continued) 
to make a noise in the world, most of St. Thomas' disciples remained 
almost deaf to these wretched murmurs, except to refute them. (And 
however necessary that may be, it's not refutation I'm concerned with 
here.) Gradually the Thomism of the schools lost that openness, that 
feeling for research and progress, that zeal to go to the rescue of 
truths wherever they were held captive, that commerce with the. real 
and with experience, which quickened it in its original source— and, 
above all, that intuitivity which is the life of its life (this is verified in 
theology too; for although theology, unlike metaphysics with the 



actusessendi , lacks an intellectual intuition of its prime object, it has, 
nevertheless— to advance step by step, as reason does, in the mysteries 
of Being itself subsisting by itself— the light of faith, which in the ex- 
perience of contemplation quickens the theologian, as well as any 
contemplative soul, in a more piercing, almost intuitive fashion: so 
that the sacra doctrina might actually become what it is de iure , "a 
certain impression in us of the divine knowledge, quae est una et 
simplex omnium ,” \vhich knows all things in its perfect unity and 
simplicity ). 14 

The loss of potential due to this loss of ever-alert intuitivity is the 
underlying cause of the baneful deterioration which has taken place 
in the direction of notionalism and a fixation upon abstract essences 
(hence, a metaphysics unmindful of the intuition of being) for which 
Gilson is doubtless right in regarding Cajetan as particularly respon- 
sible. (It is not without a certain ruefulness that I admit this since, 
in other respects, I’m an admirer of this incomparable reasoner; he 
was, alas, a partisan of Aristotle in the very sense St. Thomas was not, 
and yet for all of that, a theologian of extraordinary power. But the 
Commentator with whom I fell in love— without being afraid to de- 
part from him whenever I have to— isn't Cajetan, it's John of Saint- 
Thomas, w r ho, despite his interminable sentences and his charming 
fondness for logical technicalities, was himself basically an intuitive.) 

It is hardly surprising that Thomism should finally have entered 
into the “abstractive slumber" denounced by Pere Jean-Herve Nico- 
las. What can one say of the prudent ignorance in which theologian 
and exegcte have so long remained in respect of one another? Or of 
the isolation in which our masters remained for so long regarding the 
new conceptions of the world with which science, and especially its 
popularizers, captured the attention of the vulgum pecus ? It helps 
explain a little how so many of out intellectuals still imagine that 
whoever takes interest in Thomism is stepping out of our age. 

What’s more, if one were to turn, no longer with special reference 
to the kind of teaching in which the Thomists too often indulged (its 
lacks were particularly serious in proportion to the living treasure it 

14 As P£rc Curasao wrote, ‘The joys and vital energy which theology dispenses 
arc incomparable., because this knowledge is nothing else than the baptismal 
iUumination become conscious of itself and progressive.’' Le Mystfoe de iEglise 
(Paris: ed. du Ccrf, 1917), p. 6. 


should have transmitted), but to the ordinary teaching which, too 
often also — this time in bland doctrinal indifference — prevailed in 
Christian schools, things would appear still worse. At this point I 
remember that pious offense to the intellect, the Latin textbook of 
theology of the venerable M. Tanquerey. 

It is all that that needs changing— and is in the process of changing 
at top speed. That is where the true new fire should bring its flame. 


All that should change. But it risks changing for the worse. 

In actual fact, the result of all the setbacks I have enumerated has 
been an even greater misfortune. The immense work of discernment 
and integration, of interpretation, reconstruction, purification and 
liberation, which the adventures of thought and culture in the mod- 
ern age called for and which needed to be done within the truth — al- 
ways up-to-date by nature but above time, and demanding to be 
manifested in time— of the great doctrinal wisdom St. Thomas gave 
to the world, this immense work has not been done by his disciples . 15 
Thus it was left to theologians of good will but unsteady head, to 
carry out, instead of this work, a completely different one— designed 
not to save captive truths, but to try to adapt them to the very thing 
which holds them captive. Such a work is performed under the spur 
of the moment, and accomplished outside the ever up-to-date (but 
above time) truth of a doctrinal wisdom which they either don't 
know, or scorn, or betray, by following the petticoats of any philoso- 
phy dressed out in the latest fashions, which becomes their servant- 
mistress. As if an ambitious and phenomenologist ancilla, which is 
positive of knowing more than they, could help them do anything 
but transform theology into a kind of exegesis, at once bold (why, of 
course) and modestly conjectural, of the truths in which our fore- 

15 There is a certain amount of injustice in putting it this way, but, as I have 
already said, I am speaking in general terms — leaving aside a number of Thomist 
scholars who in the course of the last century have shed light on a good many 
problems or opened up a number of new lines of investigation. I would have 
preferred to name names, but I don’t wish to seem to be drawing up a list of 
honors. Besides, the scholars to whom I refer (particularly Pere Schwalm) con- 
tributed more to the deepening of Thomistic thought than to the work we are 
discussing. It is in exegesis that such an effort has been undertaken, in particular 
by the admirable Pere Lagrange. 


* 5 * 

fathers believed, duly reinterpreted and provided with a new set of 
clothes, without forgetting beret, spectacles, and mutinous look, so as 
not to appear at a disadvantage in international conferences and col- 
loquies where modern mentality makes itself comfortable. 

To the foregoing reflections on the faults and omissions which, in 
the past, have gradually encrusted Thomism, and the price we are 
paying for them today, one could add similar ones on a number of 
other subjects, and,* gfnefally Speaking, on the progressive sclerosis 
which, in the course of recent centuries, has afflicted the mores, if I 
may say so, or the ways and customs of Christian thought. The main 
question had to do with the practical aftereffects of ideas upon hu- 
man behavior; Churchmen's prudence played a great part in the 
matter. A sacred trust and venerable traditions of exalted wisdom, al- 
though always at work wherever there were blood and life, gradually 
found themselves half embedded in routine, narrowness of mind, and 
a kind of vigorous and suspicious refusal to think which served as 
preventive medicine for a host of threatening contagions. The in- 
evitable result was to turn the Christian people in upon itself (many 
kept alive wonderful riches of faith and piety, but many also sank in 
indifference or an unfathomable ignorance) and to divorce, not 
Christianity, certainly, nor the Church, but the mass of average 
churchgoers and their ordinary concerns, from the world of culture, 
with its nice progress in shamelessness and the experience off un- 
reason, but its genuine progress, too, in the experience of beauty, 
poetry, intelligence, freedom of mind, and the knowledge of man. 

Leon Bloy, Bernanos, Mauriac, each from his own standpoint, have 
said all that needs to be said on this subject. In spite of everything, it 
had become the custom to look at all this with a kind of resigned 
indulgence, as the inevitable weaknesses of every great human insti- 
tution, or the unavoidable squalor and routine of departments which 
prepare the equipment for some heroic venture. One lost sight a little 
too much of the foot-sloggers and the poor common people whom 
the toil and worry of earning a living kept prisoners of the force of 
habit and who did not read the great mystics. One forgot, above all, 
that it wasn’t a case of a human institution or a military venture. The 
Church was well aware of it, and she didn’t forget the common peo- 
ple either. Everybody was surprised by the Council because everybody 
is little concerned with what the Church is. She has said at last that 


she is fed up with routines and unnatural isolation. She has marked 
out the road of renewal and liberation. And she will manage well 
enough, have no fear. 

The fact remains that, when worm-eaten barriers begin to snap, a 
horde of bewildered souls are quick to take advantage of it and dis- 
perse in nature— or “culture,” and blithely follow the prevailing 
winds, in other words, the lastest fashion. This too is inevitable. And 
if we are seeing right now a good many outlandish things, and a curi- 
ous unleashing of Christian tomfoolery (it's the same old tomfool- 
ery, only turned upside down) where a certain number of priests and 
consecrated people take care not to forget their role as leaders— 
“firemen who catch fire,” as Degas used to say of certain painters — 
we should look back over our shoulder, with a little suitably disillu- 
sioned wisdom, and recall the gross errors and omissions of a not-too- 
distant past (it is mainly a case of the nineteenth century) for which 
we are now paying the price. 

Having said that, we are forced to admit that the spectacle enjoyed 
by our contemporaries has a good many questionable allurements. It 
is not merely the brilliant theological work already alluded to that 
they behold without a murmur (save for compliments). They have 
also to contemplate the work of reconstruction expected on all sides 
of statistical and scientific devices, and, first of all, to admire the 
general substitution of techniques— especially the psychological— 
which are now flourishing, not only for pious practices which are 
more or less obsolete, and the routines and antiseptic precautions I 
have already mentioned, but even for the traditions (still alive, in 
spite of hardening of the arteries) of exalted wisdom which I have 
also mentioned, and especially the humble and noble disciplines of 
what is still occasionally referred to as the spiritual life. 

Some of my friends are afflicted with this phenomenon. There are, 
moreover, a good many things that the Chinese proverb I invented 
as an epigraph to this book advises us never to take too seriously. 
For my part, I plead guilty to being particularly struck by the comic 
aspect of the spectacle, which it seems permissible to poke a little fun 
at. In spite of everything, it is very funny to imagine countless Chris- 
tian families poring devoutly over copies, not of the Spiritual Combat , 
but of treatises on Sexology; or to think of that Mexican monas- 
tery whose sturdy pioneering zeal prompted it to have the whole 
community psychoanalyzed, with the not unforeseeable result of a 



number of happy marriages, and new Christian families whose chil- 
dren will, one hopes, be psychoanalyzed first thing after the tragic 
event which made them come out of the intra-uterine paradise. It is 
also pretty amusing to picture to yourself superiors of seminaries or of 
religious houses, masters and mistresses of novices, or crack students 
who are being prepared for this function, studiously and eagerly at- 
tending courses in dynamic psychology which initiate them in projec- 
tion tests, Rorschach, and the psychodrama of Moreno. In this way, 
they will acquire the science of human behavior, and will be able to 
tell souls who are or will be confided to their care “what to do,” or, in 
embarrassing cases, send them to the psychiatrist, the man who really 
“knows” (Domine, quid me vis facere). They will have been taught, 
too, how to spot the other meaning hidden behind the confidences of 
those who speak to them, and how to practice on them the counseling 
of Rogers, thus giving proof of an “unconditional consideration” of 
which old-fashioned charity had no knowledge. My only regret is that 
I am too old to look forward to being comforted by the young gener- 
ations who are being prepared in this way to dedicate themselves to 
the Lord— -fully flowering in their nature, poised, de-complexed, 
socially conditioned, spontaneously adapted to group reflexes, and, 
at last, happy to be alive. 

A visit to the psychologist is no more attractive to me than a visit 
to the dentist, but I realize that in certain cases it can be necessary. 
Psychologists are able to offer important services to those who really 
need them, and whom the conditions of modem life make probably 
numerous. In any case, it would be ridiculous to underestimate the 
value of their work, and I have no intention of falling into this error. 
I have a good deal of admiration for Freud, if not for the Freudians, 
and I heartily value the discoveries of contemporary psychology, how- 
ever incomplete. What tickles my funny bone is the rush of conse- 
crated persons who, in spite of an incurable incompetence, can't wait 
to have themselves indoctrinated with the most pious (and least 
scientific) enthusiasm. 

Who knows? Maybe all this bustle is needed to put an end to 
certain absurd routines , 10 and to teach people to steer clear of errors 
that a bit of intelligence and a fair amount of fraternal care and com- 

18 Here, too, we arc paying a penalty for the terrible errors due to an ignorance 
that good faith failed to make any less frightful, which once led to the stake, as 
‘Vitahes,” »o many unfortunate victims of mental illness. 


passion would have sufficed to avoid. Furthermore, the elementary 
psychological knowledge which has today become normal for every- 
one, can help persons in charge deepen their insight in the case of 
candidates for the priesthood or the religious life whose perserverance 
is open to question. But much fonder hopes are being entertained. 
We are to learn better than with the Gospel and the love of charity 
how to lead a human community to the service of God and our 
neighbor. We are to improve with a technique that is at last foolproof 
the manufacturing of souls efficaciously devoted to this service. 
Clearly, all such pieces of foolery will pass away as quickly as they 
have appeared. 

It is certain, also, that for her part the Church will find— a bit late 
perhaps— a cure for the dangerous new forms of enslavement which 
we owe to the empire of technique. (I cannot say as much for the 
world or the State, if I can believe the picture sketched by M. Jacques 
Ellul in his book, The Technological Society . 17 ) Let me say it once 
more, it is Christianity which will doubtless be the last resort for the 
human person, and for those poor adults who, after a too well edu- 
cated childhood, will have nevertheless retained concern for freedom, 
and will struggle to break from the universal conditioning. 


If now we turn again in the direction of theology, we will find that 
the masters of the new schools of theological re-interpretation have 
still other joys in store for us which, if not the purest, are at least 
bracing and of a rare quality. I read a little while ago in an estimable 
and widely read Catholic periodical , 18 an article in which the Rever- 
end Robert T. Francoeur, praising the creative genius of the Rever- 
end Pere Schoonenberg, voices the hope that one of his books 
recently translated into English, Man and Sm , 19 will be considered— 
although it by no means presents itself as definitive— as a classic work. 
The creative genius I'll buy. But it is worth taking a closer look at a 
book on original sin before holding it up as a classic work. That's why 

17 New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967. 

18 Jubilee , February 1966. 

19 Man and Sin: A Theological View (Indiana: University of Notre Dame 
Press, 1965). The original title is De Macht der Zonde, L.C.G., Malmberg, 
Hertogenbosch, 1962. 



I couldn't wait to get hold of Man and Sin. My reading of this work 
(brimming over, as you might expect, with erudition), which the 
author is at pains to stress he is presenting as a hypothetical or con- 
jectural essay, but whose high renovating value he certainly makes no 
attempt to conceal, has given me joys of a very special kind. 

As we all know, the ancient church 20 considered original sin as a 
fault committed once in the past by the first human couple. We ex- 
perience its effects in the’ loss by our human nature, along with the 
supernatural and preternatural gifts of Adamic grace, of the internal 
order which it owed to this grace. Every man, then, was bom in a 
state of fallen nature which, unless he was delivered by the redeeming 
grace of Christ, made it impossible for him to enter into supernatural 
beatitude and the vision of God . 21 

As for myself, I have always believed, and still do, that this doctrine 
is of faith, and that one should be prepared to suffer death rather than 
deny it. But views other than those of the ancient church are possible 
today, aren't they? 

The author admits neither the preternatural gifts nor the grace 
proper to the state of innocence, both of which seem to him some- 
what nearing fairyland; he does not admit their toss, either, nor the 
too "essentialist" notion of fallen nature . 22 Without following Teil- 
hard throughout (he criticizes his conception of evil as a simple, 
statistically necessary penalty for progress) he adheres to the perspec- 
tive and "spirit" of Teilhard, and seeks, therefore, a total reinterpreta- 
tion, in keeping with our evolutionist view of the world (which is 
beyond contest, of course). We know that in this view Christ did 
not come primarily to save; his "first function is that of fulfilling." 
But the minds renewed by the metaphysics of evolution have too 
often neglected the "other functions" of Christ: "restoration, salva- 
tion, and the destruction of sin." It was to remedy this shortcoming 
that Pere Schoonenberg boldly set out . 28 

** Ibid., p. 197. 

21 St. Thomas added that children who died unbaptized — before being able, 
in an act of freedom, to accept (or refuse) the grace of Christ offered to all — 
were doubtless deprived of beatitude and the vision of God, but would enter into a 
state of natural felicity exempt from all pain and sorrow. This doctrine of Limbo, 
scorned by »o many of today's theologians who don't know what they are doing, 
should be recognized as a precious treasure by every intelligent Christian. 

21 Schoornenoeig, op. tit ., p. 198. 


The reinterpretation he proposes would substitute an “evolutionary 
and historical” picture for a “static” one . 34 The sin known as original 
(because someone— or ones— among the anonymous primitives must 
have one day begun and set in motion the history of sin ), 25 is actu- 
ally an historical sin. Original sin, or the sin of the world (which the 
author considers identical) is spread all through evolution, growing 
continuously. For the world advances at the same time in the accept- 
ance of grace and in perdition; “both salvation and doom grow 
apace,” 26 in such a way that “sin is directed against the history of 
salvation rather than against any law of being .” 27 In the history of 
sin as in the history of salvation, what we are dealing with is a series 
of “being-in-situation” in which we find ourselves by reason of prior 
historical evolution: either those kinds of “being-in-situation” which 
are leading to salvation because our human environment disposes us 
to receive grace, or those kinds of “being-in-situation” which are lead- 
ing to sin, because our human environment disposes us to sin. 

Original sin is thus a “being-in-situation” in which— on account of 
the history which has preceded us and the refusals of grace to which 
our human environments have been subjected by the fault of a long 
series of forbears— we are placed prior to any personal decision on our 
part , 28 but which inclines us to sin . 29 Thus, thanks to the new 
theology, we are rid of the state of fallen nature. But this state af- 
fected us in our individual nature, so that a child coming into the 
world was in an intrinsic state from which only the grace of Christ 
could draw him. With a succession of “being-in-situation,” there is 
no longer an intrinsic state of deprivation of grace in which we are 
placed at birth. It becomes easier to understand why the word “re- 
demption” has passed out of fashion and why the primary function of 
Christ is not to save. 

24 Ibid., p. 192. 

26 Ibid., p. 195. 

26 Ibid., p. 196. 

27 Ibid., p. 195. 

28 Ibid., p. 198. 

28 Ibid., p. 181. As with every being-in-situation, this situation in which we are 
placed before any personal decision on our part or any freely chosen attitude of the 
person (p. 198) “is in some way assumed by the person in the process of self- 
development . . . , and accompanied by some faint foreshadowing of a personal 
decision, probably a personal sin/' (p. 181) 



Whatever the advisableness of this remark, what is to be kept in 
mind is that the fall occurred through a long "history of sin/' 30 
where we are nevertheless permitted to assume that before Christ 
certain human groups, which, as luck would have it, history had left 
fully open to primeval grace, could thus be free from original sin. 
You can see we have made progress since the ancient churchy and 
since that St. Paul who pretended to maintain that the sin of one 
single man had “passed into all men for their condemnation” 31 and 
that likewise the justice of one man worked in them for their justifi- 

Those who were bom in the fortunate groups in question w r ere in 
a state of "immaculate conception” 32 (with this difference, noted 
by the author, that it is not to the foreseen merits of Christ the Re- 
deemer, as in the case of Mary, that they owed their condition). 
What is one to say then? Has not this clause, " intuitu meritorum 
Christi Jesu Salvatoris humani generis , by the foreseen merits of 
Christ Jesus, Saviour of the human race,” been expressly placed in the 
definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to maintain a 
point of faith— the impossibility of any human being being born ex- 
empt from original sin, with the sole exception of the grace thus 
bestowed on Mary? Let us, to be polite, simply say that being Profes- 
sor of Dogmatic Theology at the Catechetical Center of Nijmegen 
must be a remarkable "being-in-situation” of daydream. 

In any case, the crucifixion of Christ has put an end to the possi- 
bility of those immaculate conceptions prior to Mary's which were 
permitted by history. And if, until then, the universality of original 
sin "must not be taken strictly,” 38 the putting to death of Christ, 
because it cast out of the world the Author of life, 84 has an impor- 
tance and a seriousness greater by far than any possible first sin in the 

M Ibid., p. 178. 

11 Rom. 5:18. (Yes, this is the scuac of the Greek text.) 

82 Op. cit., pp. 189-190. “In that hypothesis more people may have engaged in 
"immaculate conception' not in the way in which the Church professes it for 
Mary — that is, as a gift proceeding from Redemption — but as it may be said, and 
ls sometimes explicitly said, of Adam and Eve, that is, as a gift coming from 
primeval grace." 

38 Ibid., p. 190. 

34 Ibid., p. 196. 


human race . 35 It is this supreme culmination of the sin of the world 
—the rejection of Christ from the world where he dwelt among us— 
which, completing the measure of the sins of the fathers, brought it 
to pass that thenceforth the universality of original sin would admit 
of no exception. From that time on no one can escape from it except 
through the grace of baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit 
which followed the Resurrection. Since the death of Christ, therefore, 
every man enters the world simultaneously in the disastrous situation 
of original sin and (because of the Resurrection) in a situation of sal- 
vation. 3 ® 

Here, then, is why the Word was made flesh. The stroke of genius 
is to have seen that the death of Jesus on the Cross brings us perdi- 
tion right along with salvation. It places each man at birth in the 
situation of being lost through original sin— a situation which has now 
become universal— and simultaneously in the situation of being 
saved through the grace of the risen Christ after his crucifixion. (Its 
the Resurrection that matters: in this ‘'Theological View” I read 
nothing about the redeeming sacrifice or the merits of the Passion.) 
In truth, the cross itself, the blessed cross, is hardly, for our author, 
the spes unica. It is “only from God's point of view, for whom noth- 
ing is impossible, that salvation comes to us through the cross of 

35 That is the essential point for P£re Schoonenberg. We used to believe that 
the sin of those who condemned Christ and who failed to recognize the Messiah 
of Israel and the light of the world consisted solely — and that was enough! — in the 
putting to death of the Lamb of God: felix culpa , we might say, as Adam's fault 
had been, thanks to which Christ accomplished the redeeming sacrifice for which 
he came. Not so! The sin of those who condemned Christ goes much deeper than 
that. What must be seen first of all in the death of Christ is the physical or 
cosmic fact which resulted from it: the Author of grace was excluded from the 
world and from this earthly existence where he had come to share our life and 
offer us salvation. By that very fact “our whole existence on earth” is "deprived of 
the life of grace, so that everybody starts his own existence with the lack of it.” 
(Ibid., p. 190.) 

The reason this is true, we are told, is that before the Incarnation the com- 
munication of grace was "interpersonal, charismatic” (how nice to hear that), but 
now this road is "closed for all,” since Christ is no longer among us. Hence the 
necessity of baptism. That is only one of the gems in this precious "Theological 

36 Ibid., pp. 196, 197. "Since Christ's death on the cross, every man enters the 
world in the disastrous situation of original sin. Everybody enters the world in that 
situation of perdition, but the opposite, too, is true. Every man enters the world 
in a situation of salvation, for the Lord has risen and his spirit fills the earth.” 
(P- 1 97 ) 



Christ, in connection, of course, with the Resurrection. From man’s 
point of view, the cross of Christ means the greatest disaster.” 37 
The Lamb of God burdens us with the sin of the world at the very 
time he is taking it on himself. As far as dialectic is concerned, noth- 
ing could be better and everything is finally clear. But it is damn 
strange all the same. 

. * ☆ 

The judgment deserved by the works of the renovators who season 
their theology either a la Teilhard or with the sauce of the phenomen- 
ologists is not hard to reach: they are the product of an impassioned 
fatuousness anxious to serve the idols of the times. However ephem- 
eral they may be, these choice writings threaten to disconcert com- 
pletely Christian consciousness and the life of faith. Instead of the 
true new fire called for by our era, they bring us only the smoke from 
rotten wood which cannot catch fire. The would-be renewers we are 
discussing are hapless stragglers who would like us to return to a zero 

17 “From man's point of view the cross of Christ means the greatest disaster. 
Only from the point of view of God, for whom nothing is impossible, salvation 
comes to us through the cross of Christ, in connection, of course, with the Resur- 
rection, for if Christ has not risen, we are still in our sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). (Ibid., 
p. 197.) The author apparently considers the Cross only a preface putting an end 
to the life of Christ here below (while seeming to forget completely that he 
sacrificed himself and laid down his life of his own free will), so that salvation 
could be achieved through the Resurrection. This is a rash re-interpretation — and 
in my view a disastrous and intolerable one — of the whole of Christian thought, 
which has always held to the belief that the sacrifice of the cross and the merits of 
the Passion — victory over sin — have accomplished the work of saving and redeem- 
ing mankind, and that the Resurrection — victory over death — has consummated 
this work by inaugurating the kingdom of glory to come, and by making possible — 
for ib, here below — the sending of the Paraclete by the risen Son ascended to the 
boeom of his Fathcc, ao that “as Christ is risen from the dead through the glory 
of the Father, in the tame way we too might enter in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4.) 
E>oe$ not the sacred liturgy itself declare this ejrolicitfy? One has only to read at 
one go what is said in the Preface of the Holy Cross and of the Ascension: “Qui 
sahtiem humani gtmru m ligno cruris constitute?’; “ Qui post resurrect ionem 
suam sU eleYOtus m cotkim , ut nos dvtimtatis suae ftibuerct & sm pdriicipes.” P£re 
Scboonenbeig twists from its obvious meaning the text he invokes of First Co- 
rinthians. What St. Paul tells us here is that if the Resurrection — which, by 
making manifest the divinity of Christ, rs the proof and pledge of our faith in the 
redemption accomplished by him on the cross — has not taken place, this faith 
would be in vain. If our faith in the Redemption is vain, then obviously we are 
“still in our s ins. 5 * 



point so that we can begin all over again. In other words, they wish to 
make our thought retreat across the centuries and bring us back to 
the gropings of childhood (a modem childhood, of course, brought 
up on audio-visual techniques and trying its hand at typewriters and 
computers). That is not how one makes progress. 

It is desirable, surely, that serious theologians should take the 
trouble to refute the assertions, constructions and hypotheses of 
these stammering stragglers who see themselves as pioneers. Yet this 
is likely to prove a waste of time. For one never gets very far launch- 
ing frontal assaults on what L6on Bloy, referring to the right-minded 
cleansings with which the Abbe BethMem tried to make innocuous 
the literature of his day, and which now appear antediluvian, liked to 
call an “extraordinary flood of foolishness.” What the people of God 
expect of theological wisdom is for it to take the lead and cut the 
grass right out from under the feet of the vain Doctors of Divinity by 
renewing, where necessary, its own problematics and discovering, in 
total fidelity to truths already acquired, new truths which will take 
their place alongside the old ones and new horizons which will enrich 
and enlarge our knowledge. Nothing will be achieved by an idiotic 
attempt to break everything in order to do up everything to the taste 
of the day; what is needed is an effort of the mind to see more deeply 
into the mystery which it will never finish probing. 

The truth is that the silly things of our day are quite often a biolo- 
gical phenomenon (to call them intellectual would be saying too 
much) of reaction to the silly things of the past, particularly the 
recent past. Thus, another conclusion emerges from a study of the 
pseudo-renewals which a chronolatrous fatuity is causing to swarm 
before our eyes. We see a remarkable confirmation of something we 
knew all along: namely, that what goes by the name of integralism is 
an ill of the mind disastrous on two counts. First of all, in itself; and 
secondly, for the consequences it entails. 

First, in itself. Integralism is, of itself, an embezzlement, an abuse 
of trust committed in the name of truth— that is, the worst offense 
against divine Truth and human intelligence. It takes hold of true 
formulas which it empties of their living content and freezes in the 
refrigerators of a restless police of the minds. In these true formulas it 
is not truth that integralism actually sets its heart on and places 



above everything— truth which demands to be understood in its pre- 
cise balance and exact meaning and is never something to go to sleep 
on. (It always involves the dangerous desire to go further and to en- 
gender as well as integrate new truths, whether they are truths of the 
speculative order which the progress of thought gives rise to, or 
those of a practical order whose discovery is required by the new 
historical stages through which human societies are passing.) In the 
formulas which it 'freezes, integralism sees and cherishes human 
means of security — whether for the convenience of intellects which 
immobility reassures by giving them, at cut-rate, a good bedrock of 
fidelity, inner coherence and firmness — or for the equally cheap pro- 
tection these frozen formulas offer persons in authority, sparing them 
any risk when they brandish them, prudently as regards themselves, 
and rudely when it comes to others— or for the ease of government 
they provide as instruments of prohibition, more or less covert threat 
and intimidation. In sum, the primacy thus passes to human security 
and the need for self reassurance, whether it be psychological or 
social, thanks to the various protective devices called for by this 
primacy of security, the chief of which is a vigilant ardor in denounc- 
ing whatever threatens it: all that, and here comes the abuse of trust, 
in invoking God and the blessed Truth! The net result is to inhibit 
the search which the intellect, when it is straight, loves not for the 
pleasure of seeking but for the joy of discovery and as a means of 
entering into possession of more of the truth. 

It is iategralism taken in itself I have been describing here. Of 
course, a good many minds more or less tainted by it are in good 
faith, and some even of great value. It is in their unconscious that 
integralism is at work and spreads its poison. But that's not the 

As for the consequences which integralism entails, they are all the 
more dangerous since, as a rale, it is tied to a political and social 
philosophy which is itself dominated by a secret need for security 
above all. Confronted no longer with the movement of ideas but 
with the movement of history, this philosophy takes refuge in 
utopian claims of restoring order (it's been upset, hasn't it, by this 
cursed fever for justice of which men should be cured); it cherishes 


force and a brutal authoritarianism, especially when they derive from 
a usurped power; it distrusts the people and freedom, and, in spite of 
occasional demagogic trappings, helps to buttress the interests of the 
mighty ones and a regime of protracted social injustice which, shaken 
in the end, stops at nothing to insure its survival in the midst of a 
world in turmoil but in development. Why be surprised when the 
consequences entailed by integralism with its usual political and so- 
cial implications, and by the frustrations thus produced in Christian 
intelligence and sensibility, lead inevitably, owing to the pendulum 
movement of human affairs biologically considered, to an explosion 
of childish anarchy in the opposite direction? Why should we be 
surprised when in some of our spiritual guides, unstable guides car- 
ried away by vainglory, but also in many generous souls who readily 
follow them— mingling together religion and politics, and mistaking 
genuine doctrinal rigor for the integralist abuse of trust— the conse- 
quences I just pointed out take the form of the fine outburst of theo- 
logical, philosophical and exegetical nonsense which today greets us 
at every turn? And it is a fact that integralism, in quite various de- 
grees and under more or less veiled forms, has been spreading among 
us during the nineteenth century and the first decades of our own. 
Now, with a crash, the pendulum is swinging to the opposite extreme. 

Acknowledging such historical misfortunes is in no way an excuse 
for the neo-modernist flood I have mentioned, or for the fatuity, 
mental weakness and mental cowardice which are responsible for it. 
We have simply to acknowledge also that, in the final analysis, the 
amount of foolishness and intolerance in human history remains rela- 
tively constant, merely passing from one camp to the other, changing 
styles and having significance in terms of opposite algebraical signs. 
If I use the word intolerance, it's because, at this stage of the game, 
whoever gets out of line and refuses to believe in the “latest” fables 
to hit the market is treated as a reject, good only for the scrap heap. 
I have suffered more than a little myself from the integralist meth- 
ods, accusations and denunciations. But I hope I haven't lost my head 
over it and have kept my reason sufficiently free of the traumas of 
resentment not to yield to the delicious and so “consoling” pendu- 
lum movement which is sweeping along so many of my dear 




The crisis in which theology is involved today is obviously a passing 
phenomenon. In the Dasein there is doubtless the human infatua- 
tion, but there is also the Holy Spirit, for theology is a necessary 
ingredient of the mystical Body. The conjectural and imaginary theol- 
ogies will go as they have come, and so will the vain hopes put in 
psychological techniques. 

Let us rest assured, too, that Thomistic theology— this will take a 
bit of time— will recover whatever ground it has lost. It will, where 
necessary, renew itself and likewise its methods of teaching. And it 
will undertake at last — within the truth (ever up-to-date above time, 
but demanding to develop in time) of the great wisdom of St. 
Thomas— the vast work of discernment and integration which the 
Church and human thought both need. Let us rest assured, too, that 
die Order of St. Dominic will surmount its present crisis, (whatever 
way you look at it, it's better to be in a crisis than to cut a fine figure 
by carrying water on both shoulders), if only those of its members 
who are clear-sighted don't let themselves be too intimidated by the 
stars of the intelligentsia and the precious students. 

What, from his humble hut, the peasant of the Garonne would 
now like to bring to attention is that in the great and true renewal we 
are looking forward to, Christian philosophy will doubtless— this too 
will be something new in history— have its own role to play wLiicfa 
will be of no small importance. 

I stated earlier that the metaphysics of St. Thomas is the Christian 
philosophy par excellence. In St. Thomas himself this metaphysics 
(not Aristotle's, but St. Thomas', we must go on repeating), as de- 
cisive as its part was, remained in the role of a servant, because it was 
an instrument entirely committed to the service of theology. It was 
not established in the autonomy which its nature as philosophy re- 
quires. It had no roof of its own, nor had it installed its workshops 
on its own account. 

The question is whether it will do so today, faced with so much 
opposition, unjustified but only too natural, on the part of philoso- 
phers (if there still are any) and of theologians (who sometimes seem 
to prefer employing someone who isn’t one of the household). Still, 
Christian philosophy remains philosophy. And, in this capacity, when 
it works for its own ends and on its own account, it too is a queen, 
although of a profane and less lofty kingdom, which depends only on 


the natural powers of reason. Despite the autonomy suitable to its 
condition, it recognizes, since it is Christian, the superior rights of 
faith and of the queen of sacred knowledge. 

Under these circumstances, Christian philosophy, if it is sufficiently 
versed in theology, may happen— with no intention, of course, of 
settling the matter definitively— to become interested in questions 
which, by themselves, fall within the province of the theologian. In 
so doing, it will not consider such questions from the theological 
standpoint and in the perspective of theology, but in its own 
philosophical perspective. It is risky but it can be done. As I have 
observed elsewhere , 38 the light of Christian philosophy is not the 
light of faith using reason in order to get at some understanding of 
revealed mysteries, but the light of reason assisted by faith so that it 
may better perform its own work of intellectual inquiry. And this 
very fact authorizes Christian philosophy, at the summit of its pos- 
sibilities, to concern itself in its own way with matters belonging to 
theology. In such a case it is in a free, though subordinate, capacity 
that philosophy can eventually be of service to theology, since, by its 
own nature, it is more available for a work of research and discovery. 
At this point the ancilla becomes research-worker. The last word 
will, of course, belong to the theologian. But it is the philosopher 
who will have presented the theologian with the research hypothesis. 

Here, it seems to me, is one particularly remarkable aspect of the 
role reserved for Christian philosophy in the future. One can already 
detect something of this kind in the investigations, to which I have 
already alluded, of Olivier Lacombe and Louis Gardet on natural 
mystique. If Christian philosophy is, by nature, more available than 
theology for a work of research and discovery, this is because it doesn't 
have the same responsibilities, nor the same obligation to guide itself 
according to the chart of a long and venerable tradition and always, 
each step of the way, with an eye to the revelation transmitted in 
the Scriptures. In an age when there is so much to renew, this greater 
availability of Christian (Thomistic) philosophy for a work of re- 
search and discovery, if it is given access to the workrooms of the the- 
ologian, may possibly provide appreciable help in the work of renewal 
which (Thomistic) theology has itself to perform. 

38 Cf. my book, “De la grdce et de Vhumanite de Jesus ” (Paris: Desclee De 
Brouwer, 1967). 



Yet this is obviously, for Christian philosophy, an exceptional and 
slightly dangerous task. In its ordinary behavior, when it labors in 
realms which belong only to itself, the role assigned to it has a good 
many other aspects. 

In the first place— this goes without saying and is fundamental— its 
task is to advance in philosophic truth and to perform the work of 
discernment and liberation so often mentioned in these pages with 
respect to the various currents of contemporary thought. 

And there is something else I should like to point out— as an aside, 
but its importance, in view of the ecumenical perspectives opened up 
by the Council, should not be discounted. It seems clear that in its 
very capacity as philosophy, Christian philosophy is, on its own level, 
better “situated" than theology for the dialogue (the true dialogue, 
of course, not the one which takes place on public platforms). From 
the very fact that it depends, by nature, on reason, not on revelation, 
philosophy, unlike theology, does not need to engage in a dialogue 
with the theological systems of non-Catholic Christian families or 
non-Christian religions, which, fraternal as it is, inevitably runs against 
painful and sometimes insurmountable mutual oppositions. Dog- 
matic differences are not philosophy's concern, at least not directly. 
The object of its investigation belongs to the natural order and has to 
do with that natural ecumenism the desire for which, however frus- 
trated, naturally haunts the human mind. Not only is dialogue with 
non-Christians much easier for philosophy, since each of the parties 
can more easily receive from the other valuable contributions for his 
own thought, but the possibilities for intellectual agreement in this 
field are also of much vaster scope. The spontaneous interest Moslem 
and Hindu thinkers are now taking in some of the research of Tho- 
mistic philosophy is proof of this. 

Finally, if philosophy is of itself even less the private preserve of 
the laity than theology is of the clergy, the fact remains that for 
roughly three centuries laymen have enjoyed a numerical advantage 
in this field. Let us suppose that Christian philosophy should succeed 
in fulfilling its development. The work (not too bad a job, let's also 
assume) of the laymen taking part in its endeavors would, in its own 
way, be a small sign of the appreciable change history can discern in 
the Catholic uotkm of the laity since the days when Conrad dc 
Mcgenburg said, in so full-flavored a manner, that the “genre" proper 



to laymen was to be ‘an ignorant people, who ought to be ruled by 
the clergy, in accordance with the principle that it is up to the wise 
man to rule/' 39 Without contradicting this principle, and while 
being careful to pay due respect to the superior wisdom of theology, 
Christian philosophy is perhaps in a position to bring its own modest 
contribution to what current-day jargon calls “the up-grading of the 


It's a well known fact that the Church has made St. Thomas her 
Common Doctor, and that, particularly since the time of Leo XIII, 
the Popes have never ceased recommending his doctrine in the most 
urgent of terms. 40 Paul VI, in a letter to the American Dominicans 
(March 7, 1964) quoted, like his predecessor, Pius XI, the remarkable 
words of John of Saint-Thomas: “In St. Thomas, it is something 
much greater than St. Thomas which is being received and de- 
fended/' 41 We know too that Canon 1366, $2, of the Code of Canon 
Law enjoins professors who hold their function from the Church to 
treat philosophical or theological matters ad Doctoris Angelici ra- 
tionem , doctrinam et principia, according to the principles, doctrine 
and rational approach of the Angelic Doctor. 

As a matter of fact, this canonical injunction and all the exhorta- 
tions of the sovereign Pontiffs don't seem to have made too deep an 
impression on the professors who have been given the responsibility 
of teaching by the Church. Yet I suspect that those who do the best 
they can to follow these directives are somewhat more numerous 
than is generally believed. That doesn't alter the fact that not a few 
others pay no heed at all to such directives, judging that all of this 
stuff is today out-of-date, and that the supreme authority continues 

39 “Genus laicorum est populus ignarus. . . . Debet regi a. clero , quoniam 
sapientis est regere” Quoted by Jerzy Kalinowsky and Stefan Swiezawski in their 
book, which I like so much, La philosophie d. Vheure du Concile (Paris: Soc. 
d’Editions Internationales, 1965). 

40 Cf. p. 127, n. 1, the celebrated text of Pius XI, stating that St. Thomas 
should be called “the Common or universal Doctor of the Church, for the Church 
has adopted his doctrine as Her own." 

41 Cursus theol. t ed. Solesmes, I, p. 222 (Vives, I, p. 289) : “Majus aliquid in 
sancto Thoma quam sanetus Thomas suscipitur et defenditurJ 9 



its exhortations only by virtue of a saintly routine (the wind has 
changed, that alone is the decisive argument for the creative geniuses 
who are in the wind). And a good many other professors— I'm afraid 
this has been the case for years— feel ill at ease teaching things whose 
truth escapes them. For them, the ad Angelici Doctoris doctrinam 
means first of all invoking every now and then the name of the Com- 
mon Doctor, by selecting from _his works, in a brand of eclecticism of 
sterling quality, whatever seems to keep pace with the thought of 
other masters (or textbooks) much dearer to them. 

Even were the dead to rise again in support of the recommenda- 
tions of the Church, the situation would remain unaltered. Is it 
because a number of professors would resemble those people the 
Gospel tells of in the parable of Lazarus and the evil rich man? No, 
that's not my idea. For we should not forget, no doubt, the age-old 
attachment for rival doctrines, nor, of course, the demon of fashion 
and the itching in the ears. But there is something else we should 
not lose sight of: namely, the nature and laws of the intellect, for 
which, at least in the realm of human inquiry, the argument from 
authority is, as St. Thomas said, the weakest of arguments. 

In the hands of the Church, nothing less than the requirements of 
the truths of faith itself and the preservation of the revealed deposit 
has the power to put minds under obligation. When the Church rec- 
ommends a human doctrine, however energetically, she obviously 
could not possibly do so in the name of divine Truth, as is the case 
with a dogmatic promulgation. She does so— in the name of her di- 
vinely enlightened but human wisdom— only to bear witness to a doc- 
trine which, in the words of Pius XI, she has made her own and in 
which she sees the sole worthwhile philosophical and theological 
guarantee of the preservation and spread of faith in men's minds. This 
witness borne by the Church is surely enough to cause many souls 
who are in love with truth to feci inclined toward the doctrine thus 
brought to their attention, and to set to studying it, fervently and 
hopefully; but it doesn't carry much weight with the professors. Such 
trust in the Bride of Christ and such love for her wisdom appear to 
diem something rather mystical, and what they require is something 
legal. So they have been given Canon 1366, $2, which brings them a 
disciplinary regulation, which, being unable to impose anything on 
diem in the name of the truth of faith, makes it their duty, in the 

1 68 


name of prudence, queen of the moral virtues, to teach the doctrine 
of St. Thomas because it is the safest one. That's why I have little 
sympathy for this canon. Such a procedure is certainly legitimate in 
itself, but in practice it threatens to give rise to the very opposite of 
what is intended. For it is truth, not security— and the “fair dangers" 
of which Plato spoke, more than prudence — which draws the intellect 
on in its striving toward knowledge. 

Although I have little sympathy for this canon, I refrain from wish- 
ing for its abrogation, which would be taken up quite wrongly, and, as 
a result, would be deplorable on all counts. But it seems to me that 
we are confronted here with a very serious drama, which goes well 
beyond the Canon in question. As disrespectful as I am toward the 
general run of professors , 42 I am aware that for all of them, even the 
most infatuated, truth is the object of their search (when they are 
seeking) and of their teaching (when they are not fooling around with 
conjectures) . Even those who today, by virtue of an unnatural divorce 
between the end and the object of knowledge, see their fondest goal 
in Efficacy, do so because they mistakenly believe it's truly better 
that way. If they don't exactly shine in their love for Truth, still 
they burn with a love for the truths of scholarship. Besides, it's not 
love which is at stake here, but intelligence. And however misguided 
the latter may be, truth always remains its object. (Let us recall, for 
the philosophers, that the object is related to “formal causality,” not 
to “final causality.'') And truth keeps pace with freedom. 

Doubtless professors of theology have a special duty toward the 
Church, since theology is a thing of the Church, while philosophy is a 
thing of the world or of culture. But to have as professors of theology 
men who, being utterly in doubt about the truth of St. Thomas' 
doctrine, would merely parrot it out of obedience is hardly an ideal 
state of affairs. The problem is to get them to see the truth of St. 
Thomas, and this presupposes a host of conditions for which the cult 

42 I am speaking here of professors and their own intellectual life (which plays 
a central part in the matter); Fm not speaking of their students for whom, ob- 
viously, it will always be true that oportet addiscentem credere. Still less am I 
speaking (heaven forbid!) of the thorny question, totally different and much more 
general, of publications, about which it will always be desirable that the public be 
enlightened (exactly how, now that the old Index is happily defunct, is no concern 
of mine) . 



of today's mentality makes them unfit. But this also presupposes that 
they move in a climate of freedom. 

I am aware I am here trespassing on preserves which are in no way 
mine. But perhaps an old hermit will be allowed to express a humble 
wish. I am dreaming of a day when the Church would turn, even in 
these most delicate matters, toward the roads of freedom. Of her own 
intellectual life she has a particularly keen awareness (because particu- 
larly assisted by the Holy Spirit) in the person of the chief who here 
on earth is responsible for her universality. It is in exercising the 
liberty proper to the mystical Body of Christ that she has adopted the 
doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. Could not a kind of reversal take 
place in the practical manner in which she recommends this doctrine? 
More fervently than ever, but by appealing less to obedience and 
docility than to the freedom of the intellect in its pursuit of truth 
and by relying less upon her disciplinary authority than on her own 
unfailing confidence in the truth of this doctrine? 

Is there any reason to fear that in such a climate of freedom the 
number of teachers either ignorant or scornful of St. Thomas would 
proceed to increase? This number is so great right now that it is 
difficult to imagine it getting any larger. It would be nice enough if 
the opinions they hold and teach contained nothing which, on the 
theological level, would present too much of a danger to the content 
of revelation, and, on the philosophical level, would come close to 
respecting the truths of a natural order which have a necessary connec- 
tion with this content. But were there an explicit statute of freedom, 
wouldn't they become less concerned with the constraint (and the 
weakness) of legal injunctions and more appreciative, at least some of 
them, of the witness given by the Church to the truth of her own ra- 
tional discernment, enlightened by her faith, when she recommends 
with extraordinary insistence a doctrine which is human, no doubt, 
but which, in her divinely assisted mind, she holds to be essentially 
grounded on truth? If for her part, the Church, while continuing to 
maintain her canonical regulations in such a way as to give them, as 
far as Thomism is concerned, the value of a simple counsel (besides, 
that's the way they are at present generally considered), were to 
decide to use those supreme maternal resources, which it is permis- 
sible to consider the most efficacious, and which involve imploring 
rather than commanding; if she were to address an urgent appeal to all 


who have ears to hear, and loudly declare how eagerly she wants— she, 
the blessed mother anxious for the salvation of her children— the 
living tradition of St. Thomas to go on growing and expanding from 
age to age, is it too much to believe that such an appeal would be 
heard by a good many of the faithful, and even by a sufficient number 
of professors, sufficiently intent, moreover, on studying the Common 
Doctor, and thereby sufficiently convinced of the truth of his doc- 
trine to ensure, however feeble a proportion they might be in the 
beginning, its preservation, progress and expansion? 

Such is the dream of an old hermit who may possibly have lost his 
way. If that is the case, he asks only to be put back on the right road. 


Little teams and small flocks have always been the ones who per- 
formed the great work. It looks as if this will be truer for our age than 
it ever has been, precisely because it will be (it already is) an age of 
massification through technique. Doubtless it is possible to massify 
completely all our activities and pleasures, our imagination, our un- 
conscious, and, indirectly, the intellectual habits of a great many. But 
one will never succeed in completely massifying the spirit (and the 
supra-conscious of the spirit), or in totally alienating from himself the 
individual person, that mysterious and scandalous beggar who insists 
on existing and has means of his own (a poor blighter utters, even if 
only in silent prayer, a few words, naming a friend and pleading with 
heaven for him, and behold, that operates ) . Assuming (which I don't, 
in spite of the ways in which the world is going on these days) a total 
massification of mankind, it would remain for the individual person, 
in those cases (which will always be met with) where he had not be- 
come completely alienated from himself, to flee either into neurosis 
or into God: which would give promise of a great many lunatics and a 
few saints. 

Yet I don't think we will ever reach that point. In his rather pessi- 
mistic book on technique, which I have already cited, M. Ellul points 
out somewhere that in actual fact the technician (who in addition to 
inventing new techniques is able to modify existing ones) matters 


* 7 * 

more than technique iteself. And it seems to me that this observation 
(a passing remark of the author) has a considerable bearing on the 
subject. For the technician is a man, and in a better position to ques- 
tion himself on technique than are those who receive the blessings of 
the latter. I am not unaware that among technicians there are a good 
many victims of the commonplaces to which we are treated about 
Technique in the service of Man, the Liberation of Man through 
Technique, technological humanism, etc. But if I can believe what 
I am told by trustworthy friends, the best representatives of the 
world of technicians feel much more concern for the mystery of the 
true man, and are much more open to a genuine realism, than are 
those who belong to the world of the intelligentsia. What they lack is 
a thorough idea of man, which no one in the intelligentsia furnishes 
them, and which it would be up to philosophers and theologians 
worthy of the name to propose to them. 

In other words, assuming a day would come when they find the 
intellectual guidance they are seeking, and assuming also that in such 
a case the better of them (which is not unlikely) would take the lead, 
it will be less with politicians or business men than with (enlight- 
ened) technicians that, as far as temporal activity and the temporal 
order are concerned, the world would have its best chance of escaping 
complete massification and the other servitudes to which the empire 
of technology is, of itself, dragging us off, as long as revolutionary 
changes don't occur in the management of techniques with respect to 
human life. All this seems rather obvious, since technicians play so 
dominant a part in our world. And all this presupposes, I repeat (per- 
haps as a utopian ) , a day when technology would be at least taken in 
hand by technicians who, having found the intellectual guidance for 
which they at present seek in vain, and being inspired by an authentic 
humanism careful to respect all that is in man, would then be in a 
position to overturn a good many things in the kingdom they govern 
and bring about the necessary revolutions. 

In other respects, when we look at the process of technical massifi- 
cation that is going on before our very eyes, it seems that the realm of 
the spiritual should also, and first of all, have its role to play in a 
matter of such consequence to mankind. From this point of view, at 
least for the moment, the prospect, frankly speaking, is scarcely 



reassuring. By employing mass means, Christians will unquestionably 
obtain a certain number of immediate results of a bind to gratify 
their shepherds. But to resort in the first place, and on a grand 
scale, even for the loftiest goals and with the purest intentions, to 
the very things which depend on the empire of technique is to 
contribute by the same token to strengthening this empire, with all 
the threats of which it is at present chock-full, and which, moreover, 
are all the more redoubtable as one allows it to have a hold over things 
that, of themselves, belong to the realm of the spiritual itself, and of 
the freedom of the spirit. Under such circumstances we should regard 
the long-term outcome as rather doubtful. 

If we take all of the foregoing into account, it clearly appears, me- 
thinks, that it is more than ever the task of the little teams and small 
flocks to struggle most effectively for man and the spirit, and, in 
particular, to give the most effective witness to those truths for which 
men so desperately long and which are, at present, in such short sup- 
ply. For only the little teams and small flocks are able to muster 
around something which completely escapes technique and the proc- 
ess of massification, and which is the love of wisdom and of the 
intellect and the trust in the invisible radiation of this love. Such 
invisible rays carry far; they have the same kind of incredible power 
in the realm of the spirit that atomic fission and the miracles of 
microphysics have in the world of matter. 

So here we are back once again at our reflections on Christian 
(Thomistic) philosophy and theology. To perform a mass action is, 
as far as these are concerned, a forbidden dream. And even if, in the 
teaching of the Church, it is to be hoped that one day they will re- 
sume (if they ever had it) or at last assume the decisively quickening 
role the kingdom of God on pilgrimage would like so much to see 
them play, they will never have in the world, I say the world , which 
has such need for them, a publicity success or a great multitude of 

Once the living waters of common human thought, which were 
running underground for centuries, were brought together by the 
angels of God to gush forth as a spring on the surface of the earth, a 
day came when there surged up from them a life-giving river which 
will never run dry, even if now and then it becomes very thin in size 
(though not in inner strength). What is absolutely needed is the very 



existence and activity of this current. We arc sure they will hold out. 

To transmit through the world and all the tribulations of the age 
the flame of the wisdom of St. Thomas and to make this wisdom 
progress as, here too, it demands to do, it is not a great crowd of car- 
riers, sometimes a little drunk and stumbling, that is required. The 
little teams and small flocks, who work at their own risk with no 
object or goal but truth, and are counting quite a lot on the help of 
the Paraclete, will suffice. For the assistance of the Holy Spirit does 
not only help men when they are working within the precincts of the 
mystical Body and in the Councils of the Holy Church. The Spirit is 
active in the world, too, in an entirely different and apparently more 
hazardous way, amid all the clumsy efforts and faux-pas, and also in 
the passionate striving for truth and the loving prayer of men (even if 
they belong to the genus Idicorum) who stammer here: don’t we 
know that He will renew the face of the earth? Et renovabis faciem 

April 28, 1966 



The One and Holy 

Perhaps because I have spent my life philosophizing— and even an old 
peasant has trouble forgetting this— I have spoken at length of the 
demands and worries of the human intellect; I needed two chapters 
to bring out my package. And because I am just an old philosopher, 
and one who approaches only in fear and trembling a subject far 
above him, I promised myself that I would be more brief in this con- 
cluding chapter. Alas, it is longer than all the others. I might have 
done well to drop it, and yet since I started disserting on the true new 
fire, I could not omit those things in which its flame leaps highest. 

Since this chapter treats with the affairs of God's kingdom, it is 
naturally advisable to begin with a section concerning the Church. I 
first had the idea of putting together a sort of anthology of the princi- 
pal texts of the Council's Constitution on the Church, to which I 
would have joined, by way of illustration, other texts drawn from 
trustworthy theologians (there are still some around, and there always 
will be). I quickly perceived that such a project would fill too many 
pages and I would be starting a lengthy business, too weighty for this 
book. I will therefore limit myself to setting out as simply as possible 
some ideas which have come to me in readings and meditations over 
the years, and which have been reinforced further by the teaching of 
Lumen Gentium. I apologize to theologians for having occasionally 
resorted to a vocabulary which is not theirs at points where, trying to 
avoid too technical a language, I have chosen words within easier 
reach of most men. 

Many people too frequently see the Church only as a vast juridical 




administration charged with the duty of reminding them that God 
exists, and they look no further than its external apparatus. They do 
not know what the Church is. The Church is a mystery as profound as 
the Incarnation, and that is why the title of the first chapter ("The 
Mystery of the Church”) of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen 
Gentium was chosen by the Council the way it was. 


"In the second century Hermas 1 was already depicting the 
Church as an old woman, and giving this reason for doing so: 'She 
was founded before all things, and it was for her that the world was 
created/ ” 2 

The Church, Pere Clerissac, wrote, has a mysterious personality 
which is underlined for us in the four-fold definition of the Nicean 
Council: Unam , Sanctam , Catholicam et Apostolican Ecclesiam , a 
personality which reflects "the divine Being, the most universal and 
the most personal of beings .” 3 It was this personality that St. Ire- 
naeus had in mind when he said: "Having received this [apostolic] 
preaching and this faith, . . . the Church, although spread through- 
out the world, guards that deposit with constant solicitude, as if she 
really dwelt in but one house; and to those things she adheres in the 
same way, I mean as if she had but one soul and one heart; and it is 
with that same oneness that she preaches and teaches and transmits 
them to generation after generation, as if she had but one mouth.” 4 

And it is with the same unity that she pronounces the Lord's 
prayer: "The Lord’s prayer is pronounced by the common person of 
the whole Church.” 5 

Nothing could be more important than to try to form some idea of 
this personality, which goes infinitely beyond any purely human no- 
tion of personality, since it concerns a multitude spread out through 
the whole world and through all ages, and has nevertheless, to a su- 

1 The Shepherd , Vis. II, Ch. TV. 

2 R. P. Humbert Clerissac, Le Mystire de VEglise (Paris: 6 d. du Cerf, 1918, 
5th cd.) . 

*Ibid. t p. 43. 

4 Adv. Haer., Book I, c. 10, 2. (Ibid., p. 49) 

5 St. Thomas Aquinas, Sum. theol. 1 1 — 1 1 , 83, 16, ad 3. 


preme degree, the marks of personality— unity of being and of life, 
consciousness, memory, perception, voice (“the audible Voice of the 
Church is the Pope" 6 ), and a task to accomplish— which, also, is one, 
through all times and places. 

To designate the Church in such or such of her aspects, there are 
certain accepted names— all true, and all synonymous in spite of 
their great diversity, in the profundity of the mystery, but all inade- 
quate inasmuch as they are images drawn from things of this world. 
The Constitution on the Church has enumerated all these names. I 
would like to talk about only a few of them here. 


The Church is the Body of Christ and she is his Bride. 

“St. Paul calls the Church a ‘Body' that has Christ for its 'Head/ 
From this it would appear that Christ and the Church complete one 
another in the manner that the head and the body do in man; Christ 
being, on the one hand, the (formal) completion of the Church: 
'You have come to fullness of life in him who is the head of all princi- 
palities and of all power' 7 ; and the Church, with her greatnesses 
of hierarchy and sanctity, being on the other hand, the (material) 
completion of Christ: God 'made him the Head over all things for 
the Church, who is his Body, the fullness of him who fills all in all/ 8 
Accordingly, St. John Chrysostom could write that 'the pleroma 
(that is to say, the fulfillment, the completion) of the Head is the 
Body, and the pleroma of the Body, the Head/ ” 9 

Personality presupposes oneness; there is no personality without 
complete oneness of being and of life. It is by reason of her complete 
oneness that the Church or the mystical Body has her personality; in 
other terms by reason of the complete oneness in which her members 
are bound together by the unity of apostolic faith, Baptism and the 
other sacraments, and obedience to Peter. Thus in possession of her 

8 Humbert Cl£rissac, op. cit., p. 55. 

7 Col., 2:10. 

8 Cf. Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par, 7. 

9 Charles Joumet, UEglise du Verbe Incarne (Paris: Descl6e De Brouwer, 
1951), II, p. 53. The passage from St. John Chrysostom is taken from In Epist. 
ad Ephes., cap. I, horn. 3. 


l ll 

complete unity and her personality, the Church is at the same time 
mysterious and visible. She is visible or outwardly recognizable by the 
three signs which I have just mentioned: profession of the same 
faith, regeneration through the same Baptism, recognition of the 
authority of the bishops, successors of the apostles, and of the su- 
preme authority of the Sovereign Pontiff. At the same time, the grace 
and charity that are her very life make her “mysterious.” May I sug- 
gest that in place of this term “mysterious,” which has been tradi- 
tionally preferred (doubtless to avoid misunderstanding, and the 
heretical idea of the “invisible Church” as opposed to the visible 
Church), it might be better to say that the Church (who in her very 
essence is a mystery), this same Church risible in her structure, her 
preaching, her rites, and in the extraordinary fecundity with which she 
engenders saints, is also invisible in that which is principal in her and 
in her deepest reality: since grace is something invisible, and since, as 
St. Thomas writes, “that which prevails in the law of the New Testa- 
ment, and constitutes all its virtue, is the grace of the Holy Spirit 
given by faith in Christ. The new law is, as to what is principal in it, 
the very grace of the Holy Spirit diffused in Christ's faithful.” 10 The 
baptised who are in a state of mortal sin are still members of the 
mystical Body, members alienated from the life of this whole Body 
(the charity 11 ) but who are still tied to the whole and still belong 
to it by virtue of a very special relationship with that life; for by 
reason of the sacred character with which they were marked by Bap- 
tism, God lays special claim to them, and the faith that dwells within 
them, however dimmed it may be for many, demands of itself to be 

10 Sum. theol. y I— II, 106, I. Cf. Charles Joumet, op. cit., pp. 39-40. “It is the 
principal part of the Church — that is, her supernatural being — that is invisible," 
comments Bafiez, “but she manifests herself to the world and she is visible." 
(Ibid., p. 42) 

11 Can they be called, as they sometimes are, “dead" members, like a “dead" 
or rather paralyzed member in a living body? This metaphor runs the risk of 
leading us into error. In effect, while they are undoubtedly “dead" members since 
they lack grace and charity, they are not merely called to live again, they are also 
being wt ked upon by life: because that which gives life to the whole Body still 
works from within than (through all the holy things that remain in them, which 
arc mentioned in my text), and from the outside through the influences they 
receive from the collective charity of the Church. That is why theologians say 
that they are members of the Church re, non voto, “in act," but only through an 
“influx" which does not convey grace (cf. L'Eglisc du Verbs Incaind, v. II, pp. 
1072, 1080). 


perfected by the virtue of charity. These two elements would already 
suffice for membership in the mystical Body, provided that the sinners 
did not separate themselves from that Body by an explicit denial of 
the faith. But there are many other holy things in them which connect 
them indirectly to the life of the whole: grace always solicits them, if 
only through the wounds which the loss of it has inflicted; and a 
loneliness of soul bitterly reminds them of God. Repentance and 
hope bring an immense number of them back to the sacrament of 
penance (a sacrament which was instituted for them). Because Hope, i 
too, is there; as is also Suffering accepted. And, like messengers of the 
memory that the Head of the mystical Body keeps of them, actual 
graces, with the inner movements they entail, are passing in them; in 
great sinners such singularly profound movements can at certain 
moments give rise to quite unforeseen actions. And there are also the 
secret influences through which (are they not the favorites of mercy? 
Did He not come for them?) the charity which collectively animates 
the Church continues to reach them. The life of the mystical Body is 
grace and charity. “In the holy Church everything is to love, in love, 
for love and from love,” said St. Francis de Sales . 12 Considering us, 
average Christians, it does not always look like it. And yet what tokens 
we have of that love! St. Francis de Sales saw with the eyes of faith, 
which seek the invisible beneath the visible; he spoke of the Church 
in terms of that which is her life. The uncreated Soul of the Church is 
the Holy Spirit ; 13 her created soul, is charity . 14 

12 Preface to Traite de YAmom de Dieu. 

15 Cf. Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par. 7. 

14 Cf. Charles Joumet, Theologie de YEglise (Paris: Desclee De Brouwer, 
1958), pp. 193-213. (This work is an abridged version of the first two volumes 
of the great treatise UEglise du Verbe IncarnS.) Cardinal Joumet specifies that 1 
the created soul of the Church is charity “as cultual , sacramental and oriented 
(by the teaching and directives of pastoral authority) .” In other words, I would 
say that it is charity as capable of making the body which it animates sufficiently ' 
one to be able to receive, together with it, a collective supernatural subsistence 
that is absolutely proper to the Church, or the seal of the Church's personality. j 
“The mystical Body finds its accomplishment only there where the hierarchy is ; 
complete and the primacy of Peter is recognized" (Ibid., p. 246). Only there do 1 
we find the personality of the Church. t 

I apologize for the technical nature of the remarks that follow; I believe they 
are necessary, because orn this point I intend to go— in the same direction — a little 
further than Cardinal Joumet ( UEglise du Verbe Incami, v. II, pp. 492-508). 

Here, then, are what seem to me to be the true positions: the oneness that binds 
the faithful together is obviously not a substantial unity, it is the unity of a 



And “the body of the Church is coextensive with her soul; where 
the soul of die Church is, there is her body. Where the Church is, 
there also is her uncreated Soul, the Spirit of God; and where the 
Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace.” 15 
One can thus understand better that where the perfect unity of the 
mystical Body is lacking, that unity required by personality, and where 

multiplicity. Contrary to -what takes pTace here on earth, and which is the province 
of the philosophers (in the sphere of nature the complete) unity which is pre- 
supposed by personality is the unity of an individual substance, “rationalis naturae 
individua substantia”) — the subsistence of which I am speaking does not inform 
and therefore does not perfect (with respect to the act of existing) a substance. 
It informs or perfects a multiplicity , the soul of which is charity (with the charac- 
teristics mentioned by Cardinal Joumet) and the unity of which (one and the 
same Baptism, one and the same faith, one and the same jurisdiction) is com- 
plete — a multiplicity which by virtue of charity bears supematu rally the image of 
oneness of God. The subsistence in question presupposes (in place of substanoe) 
that complete or perfect oneness of the multiplicity whose life is charity. And it 
transcends the personality of each member of this whole, because what it informs 
and perfects (with respect to the act of existing) is supernatural life as received 
from God in the complete or perfect unity of the multiplicity itself (and not, 
obviously, in each of its members). That subsistence is given by the Holy Spirit, 
with and through the outpouring of grace and charity whose source is Christ — but 
it is a created subsistence (required by the created soul of Church as well as by 
the created body that it animates), a supernatural created subsistence. We find 
ourselves here face to face with the mystery of the Church in all its profundity, a 
mystery which cannot be explained (the more one might try, the more one would 
miss it), but which we must accept in faith; for reason can only establish that no 
contradiction is implied here. God save me from denying that infinitely holy 
assistance of the Spirit of God by reason of which my teacher and friend looks on 
the Holy Spirit as “the extrinsic and efficient personality of the Church”; never- 
theless I can see there only a constant influx of the Holy Spirit — supreme fountain- 
head of the life of the Church, whose action is such that, as St. Irenaeus said, 
“where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, 
there is the Church and all grace.” The Holy Spirit could not constitute the 
personality, in the proper sense of the word, that we ought to recognize in the 
Church, because personality, property speaking, is an intrinsic and formal perfec- 
tion — not an extrinsic and efficient support, as the assistance and the action of the 
Holy Spirit are for the Church. 

Nor am I forgetting that the personality of Christ marks the personality of the 
Church in an incomparably profound manner. (There is an analogy of this — weak 
as it may be — in marriage.) But the personality of the Bridegroom, however pro- 
foundly it impresses itself on that of the Bride (to the point that they become — 
spiritually or mystically — but one person), cannot constitute the personality of 
the Bride, nor can the intellectual and moral support of the Bridegroom dispense 
the Bride from having her own personality. 

18 Charles Joumet, L’Eglkt du Verbs Inc amt, v. II, p. 951-954; Thiologie de 
iEgtm f pp. 272-276. 



charity is not in a fit state to receive the seal of the Church's personal- 
ity, there are two distinct cases to consider. The first is the case of the 
non-Catholic Christian religious families. I am thinking in particular 
of the Eastern Churches separated from the Apostolic See. In the case 
of these Churches, which still adore the same Christ, use equally the 
baptismal rite, are blessed with the saints that they have engendered, 
and certain of which possess an authentic hierarchy, we find our- 
selves in the presence of men who are visibly members in act of the 
Church, but in a way that not being crowned with perfect unity, 
remains imperfect and uncompleted. (I add that if, in the orthodox 
Churches, the body and soul of the Church do not bear the seal of the 
Church's personality, they are, nonetheless, if I might say so, strongly 
attracted by that personality; this is proper to the particular example 
that I have chosen. With respect to other non-Catholic Christian con- 
fessions, the remarks made above still apply analogously, but to a 
lesser, sometimes to a much lesser, degree.) 

The second case to be considered is that of the non-Christian 
religious families, as well as of the diaspora of the unbelievers and 
atheists. There, too, there are men who belong to Christ and to his 
Church. In spite of the adverse positions of the religion or anti- 
religion that they profess, but aided no doubt, by their natural right- 
eousness and their own spiritual experience, they have not refused 
the divine gift offered to all. They live— without knowing it— in the 
grace of Christ. They are members in act of his Church, but this time 
in a way invisible to men , and to themselves , a way that depends 
solely on the freedom of the Spirit and that of individual human 
beings. In other words, the body and the soul of the Church spread 
out together— very far from the center where they have their perfect 
unity, and not only deprived of the seal of personality they bear only 
in the fully-formed Church, but withdrawn also from its attraction— 
everywhere in the world where there are hearts that open themselves 
to the grace of Christ, even if they do not know his name. Because 
“we know that there is no soul that God does not call to himself by 
name." 16 Those who have the grace of Christ and charity in this way 
—not outside of the visible Church, but as belonging to her only in a 

16 Charles Joumet, ThSologie de VEglise, p. 351. On the “latent" membership 
to the Church, whether “normal" before Christ or “abnormal" after him, see the 
same work, pp. 360-364. 



‘latent” way— are invisibly 17 members of the visible Church . 18 They 
are living members of the mystical Body, but members in an abnor- 
mal and imperfect state; they are not integrated in act 19 into the 
personality of the Church, the invisible effulgence of which they 
nevertheless receive, and which reaches them through the secret in- 
fluences of prayer or sacrifice, borne by the Spirit of God who alone 
knows their immeasurable power .* 0 

- * # ☆ 

The Church is the mystical Body of Christ. And she is also his 

I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice 
in steadfast love and in mercy. ( Hos . 2:11) 

Fear not , for you will not be ashamed. . . 

For your Maker is your husband. (Is. 54 14-5) 

17 In the visible behavior of these men, who have grace and charity within them, 
there is certainly (cf. op. cit ., p. 374) a quality which, of itself, is a sign of their 
belonging to the Church, but among men no one knows it — not even they. Those 
around them attribute it rather to some particular greatness or personal virtue; 
and if they make saints of them, they see them as saints of their own spiritual 
family. In other words, they themselves, as well as their acts, are no doubt some- 
thing visible — and which belongs to the body of the Church; but no one sees 
this fact save God and his angels — neither they themselves nor anyone else (except 
perhaps, here and there, some Christian friend who has an inkling of it). Thus it 
is in a manner invisible to men that the body of the Church is spreading in the 
scattered ones who, not embraced in her perfect unity, are not united in act to her 
personality. (Further and more complete explanations may be found in Appendix 4.) 

They are like petals of a rose perfectly one and beautiful — the normal flower 
of a rosebush planted and cultivated by God — which would sprout elsewhere in 
the middle of a flower blooming on such or such wild rosebush. 

18 See Appendix 4 in the back of the book, On the Unity and Visibility of the 

18 I would say that they tend (without knowing it) to be integrated into it, 
since they belong invisibly to the body and soul of the visible Church, which of 
themselves ask for their normal fulfillment, that is to say, to be included in her 

‘The witness of the saints of the Orthodox Churches, or the Protestant 
Churches, or of Judaism, or of Islam, or of India, if their sanctity is genuine, 
would dim the brilliance of the sanctity of the Catholic Church only if the latter 
taught that ge»c**c supernatural lifo and sanctity can be found only among those 
who belong to her visibly and bodily, and that there is neither supernatural life nor 
authentic sanctity those who belong to her invisibly and spiritually, without 
knowing ft, by virtue of the grace that they have received^ frotu Christ. The Ckuich 
teaches the contrary.’' Charles Joaraet, op. cit. y p. 247. 



"Christ / 7 says the Council, "loves the Church as his bride, making 
himself the model of the bridegroom who loves his bride as he loves 
his own body / 7 21 

It is in the bringing together of these two names that the unsound- 
able depths of the mystery of the Church become perceptible to the 
heart. When we say that she is the mystical Body of Christ, or, using 
Bossuet’s phrase, "Christ spread out and communicated / 7 we are in- 
sisting that she is the Body and the members whose Head is Christ, 
he whose divine personality cannot, however, be communicated or 
spread. It is therefore in a spiritual or mystical sense — and by virtue 
of the graces through which Christ pours out and communicates his 
own life beyond his own person— that the Church and Christ make 
one person; it is not in the sense in which, among those living here on 
earth, head and body make but one. For at the same time the Church 
has her own personality, that created personality of which I am try- 
ing to speak here, which is not the uncreated personality of Christ. It 
is this created personality, distinct from the personality of Christ, 
that we stress when we say that she is the Bride of Christ. Truly a 
single mystical person with Christ, and truly a person in herself (on 
earth and in heaven)— that is what the Church is, and like all mys- 
teries hidden in God, this mystery confounds the mind. Truly flesh 
of the flesh of Christ, and truly distinct from him. 

"The Church as the Bride of Jesus Christ / 7 Bossuet wrote, "is his 
by choice; the Church, as mystical Body, is his through an inmost 
operation of the Holy Spirit of God. The mystery of the election 
through the engagement of promises appears in the name of spouse; 
and the mystery of unity, consummated by the infusion of the 
Spirit, is seen in the name of body. The word 'body 7 shows us how 
much the Church belongs to Jesus Christ; the word 'bride 7 shows us 
that she was a stranger to him and that it was of his own free will 
that he sought her out. Thus the name of bride makes us see unity 
through live and free choice; and the name of body brings us to un- 
derstand unity as natural. Something more intimate, then, appears in 
the unity of the body, and something more felt and more tender ap- 
pears in the unity of the Bride— the name Bride distinguishes, in 

21 Constitution on the Church, Ch. 1, Par. 7. 


order to then unite; the name body unites without mingling. . . /’ 22 
The Church, says the Council, “is the Immaculate Bride of the 
immolated Lamb, the Bride whom Christ has loved and for whom he 
has delivered himself up in order to sanctify her, whom he unites to 
himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom he unceasingly 
nourishes and cherishes, whom he has willed, having purified her, to 
be united with him and subject to him in love and fidelity, whom he 
filled for ever with heavenly gift?, in order that we may grasp the love 
of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge/' 23 








The Church is the kingdom of God : the kingdom Jesus came to 
announce, and mysteriously inaugurate — begun now on earth and 
advancing through the sufferings of the cross toward the plenitude it 
will achieve in the world of glory and of the risen. 

Christ “inaugurated on earth the kingdom of heaven and revealed 
to us the mystery of that kingdom, and through his obedience he 
worked our redemption. The Church, or the kingdom of God already 
present in mystery, grows visibly in the world, through the power of 
God.” That is what the Council teaches. And it says further, “This 
kingdom shines forth to the eyes of men in the word, the works, and 
the presence of Christ. . . . The miracles of Jesus are the proof that 
the kingdom has already arrived on earth: 'If it is by the finger of God 
that I cast out demons then the kingdom of God has come upon 
you’” (Luke 11:20; cf. Matt. i2:28). 24 And the Church, who “re- 
ceived the mission to announce the kingdom of Christ and of God 
and to establish it among all nations,” constitutes on earth “the germ 
and beginning of that kingdom.” 

It matters indeed, is it not so, to all of us who are asking every day 
that it come— and to all the hopeless who hope despite everything, in 
the anguish and the shadows of that existence which they received 
without having been consulted— and even to the neo-Christian think- 

22 Lettre d unc demoiselle de Metz sur le mystdre de Vuniti de VEglise et ks 
mnyeilks quit renfcrme. 

23 Constitution on the Church, Ch. 1 , Par. 6. 

24 Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par. 3, 5. 


ers who have discovered that the World has a right to our raptures— it 
does matter, in spite of our silly flutterings, to think that it is there, 
this kingdom of God is there, as hidden as it may be to our carnal eyes 
in the profound life of the mystical Body, behind the necessary 
episcopal chanceries and codes of Canon Law. 

“The kingdom is already on earth and the Church is already in 
heaven. 77 25 “The kingdom, like its king, experiences two phases, one 
in which it is veiled and in pilgrimage, the other in which it is glorious 
and definitive/ 7 26 To make use of the decisive formula of Cardinal 
Journet, the kingdom here on earth is “in a state of pilgrimage and 
crucifixion/ 7 For “the Church of the Cross” must precede “the 
Church of glory/ 7 27 And why is the kingdom here on earth crucified 
with Christ, if not to do with Christ the work of Christ, to accom- 
plish that mission of coredemption the importance and necessity of 
which has been marked for all centuries by some words of St. Paul (“in 
my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of 
his body, that is the Church, 77 Col. 1:24), a mission that comes from 
“the superabundance of the merits of Christ spreading in his living 
members? 77 28 Because “from One only and through One only, we 
are saved and we save others,” 29 as Clement of Alexandria said so 
admirably. And similarly the Pseudo-Dionysius, whom St. John of the 
Cross loved so much to quote: “Of all things divine, the most divine 
is to cooperate with God for the salvation of souls 77 ; 30 a thing 
which is done by preaching the Truth and by every true witness given 
to Love, but above all by the Cross we bear with Christ through all 
ages and along all the roads of this world. 

As the Council said in regard to the mystical Body of Christ: “Still 
pilgrims on earth, following in his footsteps in tribulation and perse- 

25 Charles Journet, UEglise du Verbe Incame, v. II, p. 57. 

26 Charles Journet, “Le Myst&re de VEglise selon le lie Concile du Vatican” 
Revue Thomiste , 1965-I, p. 11. 

27 UEglise du Verbe Incarne t v. II, p. 91. 

28 Cajetan, quoted in UEglise du Verbe Incarnd , v. II, p. 225. 

29 Stromates, Book VII, Ch. II, quoted in UEglise du Verbe Incarnd , v. II, 
P . 326. 

30 T£moignage d’Elisde des Martyrs, 6e avis, Obras, Silverio, IV, p. 351. In the 
translation of Lucien-Marie de S Joseph, p. 1369. 



cution, we are associated to his sufferings ( passionibus suis) 31 as the 
Body to the Head, united to him in his passion (E i compatientes) to 
be united to him in his glory.” 32 


The Church is without stain or wrinkle , and she is penitent . 
There, perhaps, we Tiave the most troubling enigma, and the most 
magnificent. The Church is sine macula , sine ruga , she is immaculate, 
there is no name for her dearer to Him who loves her: Veni columba 
mea , come my dove, my all-beautiful (Cant. 2:10), without stain or 
wrinkle, holy and immaculate, sancta et immaculata 33 And I have 
always felt with regret, when I think of our dissident brothers who 
refuse her this title, scandalizing in their eye, and of certain intimi- 
dated Catholics who hesitate to give it to her, that Christ pardons 
more willingly the spits on his face than the least doubt on the holi- 
ness of his Beloved. 

And yet this same Church accuses herself, often in very harsh 
terms, she weeps for her failures, she begs to be purified, she pleads 
unceasingly for forgiveness (she does so every day in the Lord's 
Prayer), she sometimes cries out to God from the depths of the 
abyss, as from the depth of his anguish one who fears damnation. 

For us to take advantage of that to strike hard on her breast, when 
in reality we are speaking either of the failures of the hierarchy or of 
the sometimes atrocious miseries of the Christian world, that is a 
silliness— in which many young clerics of today do not fail to take 
pleasure, as do also many spouters who want to give themselves an 
air of freedom of the mind, and to earn the favor of audiences stuffed 
with prejudices— a bit of courage would have been enough to make 
them more intelligent. 

81 “Passionibus suis.” The Council used the same word which is used in the 
Vulgate to translate T c ov 8 \ Ifauiv tov Xpiarov, in the text of the Epistle to the 
Golossians ( 1 : 24 ) quoted on p. 184. 

12 Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par. 7. 

M St. Paul: “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her that he 
might sanctify her, . . . that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, 
without stain or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without 
blemish ” (Eph. 5:25-27). 

iS 6 


The truth is that, in the image of the immaculate Christ, the 
Church too, is immaculate, but not in the same way as he is. Let us 
remember the distinction we made above between the personality of 
the Church, a created personality, and the personality of Christ, 
which is the very personality of the Word: Christ is "holy, innocent, 
undefiled,” 34 because his personality is that of the Word, to whom 
his human nature is hypostatically united, and because the members 
of that human body that walked along the roads of Galilee and sat in 
the synagogues, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, those feet that 1 
Mary Magdalene covered with kisses, and that were pierced, those 
hands whose touch cured the sick, and that were pierced, never knew 
the least contact with sin. In taking upon himself the sins of the | 
world he assumed something which was absolutely alien to him, and 
.which he made his own through pure love, pure will to substitute 
himself as victim for sinful mankind. It is in this sense that St. Paul 
says that he was made sin so that we might be saved . 35 He himself 
never had the experience of sin. It was by loving union with sinners 
that he put on all sin . 36 

But the personality of the Church is a created personality, and the 
members that make up its body are themselves exposed to sin. "She 
enfolds sinners in her bosom.” 37 She herself, therefore, and to what 
depths, has experience of sin— "She is all mingled with sin” 38 — in 
the countless multitude of all those poor sinners who are her mem- 
bers (and who always are, as they were when he went down to eat in 

34 Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par. 8. 

35 2 Cor. 5:21. 

36 “In the Garden of Olives Jesus fixed his gaze on the subject of his prayer, 
all the sin he would put on and all the dereliction of men and of God . . . 

“Darkness of the contemplation of sin, truly merciless night, mystical and un- 
soundable night, experience founded in charity and in the loving union of Christ 
with sinners . . . 

“He tastes the infinite bitterness of our sins, as in the darkness of divine con- 
templation the poor saints taste the essential sweetness of God. 

“Here the darkness is full, Jesus sees himself abandoned, all justice is accom- 
plished, all is given . . .” (Raissa Maritain, “La Couronne d’dpines in Lettre de 
Nuit , La Vie donnde , Paris: Descl^e De Brouwer, 1950). 

37 Constitution on the Church, Ch. I, Par. 8. “She is therefore/' this paragraph 
concludes (and this is precisely the mystery that concerns us here), “at the same 
time holy and always working toward purification/* 

38 Charles Joumet, Thdologie de VEglise , p. 239. 



the house of Zacchaeus, “the friends of Jesus” ): 89 Yet she herself, in- 
sofar as she constitutes a unique person— in other terms, in her very 
personality, into which all who are her members in act and visibly are 
integrated to receive the seal thereof, but which is not their personal- 
ity, and transcends it— she herself, in her own personality, in her 
personality as Bride of Christ, is without any trace of sin. That is why 
when she does penance and asks forgiveness, and accuses herself, and 
begs to be purified, she too', in the image of the Lamb of God, takes 
upon herself that which is not hers, but she does not take it upon her- 
self in the same manner that Jesus did. She takes upon herself some- 
thing which is in her, in her own members— something however from 
which she herself as a person is absolutely free, since her personality 
transcends that of her members. It is a created personality, but one 
which spiritually or 4 'mystically 9 — in other words through love, the 
love of Christ who willed to unite her to him perfectly and indissolu- 
bly in love (not hypostatically, which is quite impossible) — makes 
but one person with that of the Lord, Head of the mystical Body. 
And that is why one cannot refuse to the Church as a person (as a 
created person making spiritually but truly only one person with the 
uncreated personality of the Saviour) the name of holy and immacu- 
late 40 without casting a slur on the love of Christ for the Beloved he 
has united to himself. 

Such is the door through which the old peasant passes to enter the 
doctrine which Cardinal Joumet has brought to light and which is 
one of the blessings we owe to him. I think that one has often mis- 
understood this doctrine because one has lost sight of the personality 
of the Church, which is constantly in the background of such a great 

“All contradictions are solved as soon as one has understood that 
the members of the Church sin, to be sure, but insofar as they do sin, 
they betray the Church; the Church, therefore, is not without sinners, 
but she is without sin.” 41 

“The Church as a person takes on the responsibility for penance. 

L£on Bloy. 

40 “ IndefectibilUtr sancta,” says the Council (Constitution on the Church, 
Ch. y, Per. 39). 

41 Thiologk de VEgLac, p. 239. 

1 88 


She does not bear the responsibility for sin. If she resembles then 
the woman-sinner of the Gospel, it is only at the moment when that 
woman pours her perfume over the feet of Jesus. It is the Church's 
members themselves— laymen, clerics, priests, bishops or popes — 
who, in disobeying her, bear the responsibility for sin; it is not the 
Church as a person. One falls into a great illusion when one invites 
the Church as a person to recognize and proclaim her sins. One is 
forgetting that the Church as a person is the Bride of Christ, whom 
he 'acquired with his own blood' (Acts, 20:28), whom he purified 
in order that she might stand before him 'in splendor, without stain 
or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and immaculate.' (E phes., 
5:27) for she is the 'house of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of 
the truth' (1 Tim. 3:15)." 42 

"Her true and precise borders circumscribe only that which is good 
and pure in her members, both the just and the sinners, encompass- 
ing within herself all that is holy, even in sinners, and leaving out all 
that is impure, even in the just; it is in our own behavior, in our own 
lives, in our own .hearts that the Church and the world, Christ and 
Belial, light and darkness, confront one another." 43 

42 Op. cit., p. 241. As P&re J. H. Nicolas said so well, “there is no darkness in 
her, although, sadly, the sins of her members veil her beauty to the eyes of the 
world, bring upon her reproach and insult, and make her suffer before God. If 
she asks for pardon it is because she recognizes as her own before God and men 
those who commit these sins, but not the sins themselves, which they commit only 
in swerving from her/* “La Plume et la Pourpre,” in La Liberte , Fribourg, Febru- 
ary 27-28, 1965, p. 6. 

43 Op. cit.y p. 244. “The borderline between the Church and the world, light 
and darkness, cuts across our own hearts/’ Nova et Vetera , 1963^. 302 (cf. Nova 
et Vetera , 1958, p. 30.) 

That is true first of all of those who, while committing evil acts which they 
promptly confess or which are only venial sins, live habitually a life of grace. (It 
is equally true of the just who belong to the Church in only an invisible way — 
the word “borderline” in that instance applies no longer to the personality proper 
to the fully formed Church, but to her body and her soul — abnormally deprived 
of the seal of her personality — to which these just belong invisibly.) 

It is also true of the baptized who are in a state of mortal sin. The line of 
demarcation still cuts across their hearts, dividing the evil that comes from them 
alone, from the good (supernatural to some degree, although insufficient for 
salvation: actual graces, and all the holy things that remain in them, of which we 
spoke above) which continues to come to them from the Church. And similarly, 
the good of a purely natural order continues also, because they are still members 
(re, non voto) of the Church, to come to them from this great body which en- 
compasses all that is good in the moral life of its parts. They owe this privilege to 


“It is in the heart of each of us that Christ and the world confront 
one another” — in other words, the borderlines of the Church pass 
through our owm hearts. “The Church divides in us the good from 
the evil. She keeps the good and rejects the evil. Her borderlines pass 
through our hearts .” 44 Many years have passed since the day at 
Meudon when Abbe Journet first spoke these words, and the impres- 
sion they made on me has not Jaded, I still treasure them as particu- 
larly precious and profoundly enlightening. Forgive me if I borrow 
from a book of mine a page in which I tried to comment on those 
words: “The line of demarcation we must consider passes across the 
heart of each of us. When a man acts in grace and charity, he lives, 
he draws his life from the life of the Church— which is a life of grace 
and charity. He is thus a part of her, since any man who has grace and 
charity belongs vitally to the Church, whether visibly or invisibly. 
Consequently, the actions in question are not only his, they also 
manifest in him the life of that whole of which he is a part. His ac- 
tions are of the Church precisely inasmuch as they are vivified by the 
grace of Christ, regardless of any secondary imperfections they might 
allow of. 

“But w r hen men act without grace and charity, even if they are 
visibly members of the Church, they withdraw from her life, they 
strip themselves of the life of the Church. And their actions are no 
stain on the Church, on the kingdom of God, because those actions 
are not hers. 

“The line of water-shed between the waters of the rivers which 
spring from the Church and the other is concealed in the inner 
recesses of the heart of men.” 45 


To bring to a close this first section of a long chapter, I would like 
to mention still another of the Church's names— the title of people 

the “character” that baptism imprinted on their souls. (Those who lack this 
“character” and who live in sin are members of the Church only potentially , and 
the borderlines of the Church do not cut in act across their hearts as they do, in a 
diminished sense, across those of the just who belong only invisibly to the Church.) 
Thtologie de I’EgliM, p. 226. 

44 Pour uTk€ philosophic dc Vfiittoire, Paris, Seuil, i960, pp. 1 50-1 51. 


of God , a name to which the Council attached a great deal of im- 
portance . 46 People of God, “messianic people/' the name empha- 
sizes the “historical dimension" of the Church and turns our attention 
toward the greatness of the preparations of the past as well as toward 
the glory of the future. 

When we pronounce it, our hearts remember the ancient covenant 
and the blessed name of Israel — and that descent from Abraham, that 
Israelitica dignitas into which the Church asks that the fullness of 
the whole world pass . 47 We remember, too, “that it would have 
profited us nothing to be born if we had not been redeemed," 48 and 
are reminded once more of this beata nox 49 in which, “breaking the 
chains of death, Christ rose victorious"; and our hearts turn toward 
the kingdom in pilgrimage that was inaugurated by the Resurrection, 
and whose ranks are destined to grow in number until the day the 
Son of God will come in glory. 

As the Council says , 50 “at all times and in every nation, God has 
given welcome to whoever fears him and does what is right. It has 
pleased God, however, to make men holy and save them not merely 
as individuals, without mutual bond; rather has it pleased him to 
make of them a people that acknowledges him in truth and serves 
him in holiness. He therefore chose the people of Israel as his people. 
With it he set up a covenant. Step by step he taught this people, 
making known in its history both himself and the decree of his will 
and making it holy unto himself. All these things, however, were done 
by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect cove- 
nant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation 
which was to be given through the Word of God himself made flesh. 
. . . Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is 
to say, in his blood, calling together a People made up of Jew and 
Gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the 
Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe 

46 It is the subject of Ch. II of the Constitution on the Church. 

47 “Praesta, ut in Abrahae filios, et in Israeliticam dignitatem, totius mundi 
transeat plenitudo.” (From the liturgy of Holy Saturday, prayer after the second 

48 Blessing of the Paschal Candle. 

4 » Ibid. 

00 Constitution on the Church, Ch. II, Par. 9. 



in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperish- 
able seed through the Word of the living God— not from the flesh 
but from water and the Holy Spirit— are finally established as 'a 
chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people whom God 
purchased for himself, those who once were no people, but now are 
God's people' (Pet. 2: 9-10)/' 

“The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of 
the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in his 
temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us. 
Its end is the kingdom of God, which has been begun by God him- 
self on earth, and which is to be further extended until it is brought 
to perfection by him at the end of time, when Christ, our life, shall 
appear." 51 

Chosen race , royal priesthood , holy nation , purchased people— 
these words designate the whole Church and all of her members. The 
royal priesthood under discussion there, which is also referred to as 
“the priesthood of the faithful," is common to clerics and laymen. 52 
St. Peter, in this great passage, is speaking of all those whom Christ 
redeemed, of all the people of God. 53 

As Pere Labourdette phrased it, “Sharing in the supreme grace of 
Christ, purchased for the redeemed by the sacerdotal act of the 
cross, which is the great victory of the messianic King, Christian grace, 
in the Church as a whole and in each of her subjects, is a grace at 
once sacerdotal and royal: gens sancta , populus acquisition is, regale 
sacerdotium. . . . Every Christian, in this sense, is a 'priest/ priest 
and king, as is his Head: man or woman, whether coming before 

51 Constitution on the Church, Ch. II, Par. 9. 

52 The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood differs from it “in essence and not 
only in degree,” yet they “are nonetheless interrelated; each of them in its own 
special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ/' Ibid., Par. 10. 

5g As Cardinal Garrone writes in the introduction to Ch. II of the Constitution 
on the Church ( Lumen Gentium, Paris, Centurion, 1965, p. 38): “The people 
of God, as the term is used in this chapter, applies to the entire Church and not 
simply to the hierarchy. By the same fundamental right everyone belongs to this 
Church. All have but one calling and one destiny.” It follows from this that “the 
Hierarchy can only, within the people of God, be entitled to render a service: that 
of exercising authority'.” And the laity are the great multitude moving, under this 
authority', toward the final fulfillment of the kingdom which is not of this world. 

1 9 2 


Christ from Adam on, or following him in history, every soul re- 
deemed by him has, by reason of his grace, that kind of priest- 
hood.” 54 He possesses it “by the same right and to the same degree 
that he possesses grace,” 55 that priesthood is “inscribed in Christian 
grace. In heaven, where the 'royal priesthood' will have fully flowered 
in the people of God and all its members, the liturgy of praise and 
thanksgiving will no longer be a means of obtaining grace nor a figure 
of a plenitude that is to come, but an expression of inner glory. The 
sacramental sacrifice will no longer be celebrated, the sacramental 
priesthood will no longer be exercised, nor will the faithful have to 
participate in it. That the Christian is both priest and king will then 
be confirmed, both for the elect who have never received either the 
baptismal or the priestly character, and for the others. This 'royal 
priesthood' will endure for all eternity as the fruit of the sacrifice of 
the cross.” 56 

Summing up Chapter IV of the Constitution on the laity, Cardinal 
Joumet points out that the Council is there repeating “with respect 
to laymen what had been affirmed in general of all Christian people. 
Laymen belong to the people of God, among whom there is 'no in- 
equality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex,' 57 
they are brothers of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served. 
They have a part in the Church's mission of salvation, her prophetic 
mission, her royal service . 58 What is new here (evident in the Con- 
stitution on the Church, as in the general orientation of the Council) 
is a realization no longer secret and painful, but urgent throughout 
the Church— not, certainly, of any inadequacy, with respect to the 
world, of her essential and structural catholicity, but of the immen- 
sity of the effort that must be made, two thousand years after the 
coming of Christ, to catch up the ever-growing mass of humanity. 

. . . The Church turns toward her lay children with a concern, not 

54 R. P. Michel Labourdette, Le Sacerdoce et la Mission Ouvriere (Paris: ed. 
Bonne Presse, 1959), pp. 14-15* This short work, with a preface by Msgr. 
Carrone, is a doctrinal Note approved by the theological commission (presided 
over by Msgr. Garrone) that was constituted to study, on the level of principles, 
the problems posed by the apostolate of the worker-priests. 

Ibid., p. 54. 

56 Ibid., p. 56. 

57 Constitution on the Church, Ch. IV, Par. 32. 

58 Ibid., Par. 34-36. 



so much to shield them from evil as to send them into the midst of 
dangers with God in their hearts, in order to give witness to the 
Gospel.” 59 


If we wish to enter into the spirit of the Council, and truly follow 
its inspiration, it is not only ou£ behavior and our activities, but first of 
all, as I noted at the beginning of Chapter 5, our ordinary patterns 
of thought which we must renew: and that demands a serious effort 
of reason, in order to grasp reality more thoroughly. And the first 
reality to consider, that which governs all the rest when we are speak- 
ing of the new fire brought by the Council, is obviously the Church 
herself whom we must serve better — but whom first of all we must 
know better. She herself dealt with this subject in her dogmatic 
Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. And she has theolo- 
gians to explain and comment on this Constitution. Why, then, 
should an old philosopher get mixed up in it? It is surely not his job 
to make people know the Church better, and he realizes that better 
than anyone. % 

But if the Council stirred the whole world, there are few however, 
and regrettably, who are sitting down to read its documents (al- 
though they have been translated into all languages and widely pub- 
lished); and there are still fewer who are sitting down to read 
theologians. The least incitation then, from no matter how low a 
quarter, that might induce someone to go into a bookstore and buy 
and study these documents, can be of use. I am thinking in particular 
of the Constitution on the Church , whose language is much easier 
to understand than that of the theologians. 

Moreover, a testimony may be no great catch, but it is always worth 
something, even if only as a mild irritant (which is always good) to 
disturb habits of thought too comfortable, and often sloppy— it’s a 
not infrequent case with many non-Christians who have no idea of 
what the Church is, and so many Christians who have only a medi- 
ocre and deplorably superficial idea. (It is hardly their fault; no one 
took great pains to teach them.) Reluctantly, then, since I am not 

Charles Joumct, "Le Mystkre de I’Eglise scion le He ConciU du Vatican" 

Rrni€ I'homiete, 1965, pp. 34-35. 


completely unaware of my inadequacy, I felt obliged to offer my own 
poor testimony. 

What vexes me about the venture is that it may possibly make me 
have the air of taking myself seriously, even of imagining I am capable, 
with cap on my head, of teaching someone something. I have not 
taken myself seriously, it is my subject that is serious. On such a 
subject I have not wished to teach anyone anything, but simply to 
speak my mind: and that, after all, is not such a bold thing to do. It 
is true, nonetheless, that one cannot speak of things in which one 
believes with all his heart without becoming deeply involved. That 
is what I have done, to be sure, while carefully shielding myself be- 
hind the powerful shelter of the teachings of the Council and of 
those who are the wiser, and have a right to teach on such matters. 

I am a little afraid that it will be the same story with the sections 
that follow. I can't help it, I will take the risk. I am still going to 
speak of things infinitely beyond me— and of which others have real 
experience. Let people think what they want of the old peasant; at his 
age one has nothing to lose. 

Contemplation in the World 


Speaking to Martha of her sister Mary, the Lord said: unum est 
necessarium , and the phrase does not mean, as one of those transla- 
tors who today contribute so much to our edification would have it, 
“One dish is enough." 

One thing only is necessary, it is to be with Jesus, given to his 
love. And the Church has always, in her pilgrimage, considered the 
part of Mary the most important one in the life of the mystical Body. 

We must add that in no other questions more than in those con- 
cerning Martha and Mary, has the tendency of our crawling reason to 
make the notions it uses paltry, stiff and dull, succeeded in stirring up 
vain controversies and confusing the issues. 

Nowhere is there greater need of distinguishing in order to unite — 
an effort that, as I already noted, our busy contemporaries resent as 
supremely incongruous. That is what frightens the old philosopher 



more than ever: not the fear of his contemporaries, to whom he pays 
no mind, but fear of carrying out badly a difficult task. 

The Carthusians, the Trappists, the Carmelites, all the great con- 
templative religious Orders that, with a view to belonging more 
completely to God alone, have adopted a mode of life essentially cat 
off from the world, wall always be considered by the Church necessary 
pillars of her temple, or deeply hidden centers of spiritual revitaliza- 
tion that she cannot do without. In these post-conciliar years they 
too, as far as I know, feel the urgent need of renewal, in order to 
make the flame of the Gospel bum more intensely in their own lives, 
and by the same token, still more take on in their prayers and inter- 
cession the sufferings of the world, but not at all, thanks to God, to 
pull down or crack the sacred walls which shield from the world their 
solitude and the spirit they have received from their founders and 
from the Paraclete. 

But among those who dedicate themselves to the practice of evan- 
gelical counsels in an essentially contemplative life, other forms of 
consecration to this life have arisen in our days, this time no longer in 
separation from the world, but, on the contrary, in the very midst of 
the world, and “at the core of the masses/' St. Therese of Lisieux 
and Pere de Foucauld have been providential precursors of this great 
new movement, which assigns to those consecrated people in the 
world , as well as to the Orders at their side who live apart from the 
world, the part of Mary in the mystical Body. 

I have for long years had the privilege of knowing some of these 
new religious brotherhoods. I attended in the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur 
the mass of foundation of the Little Brothers of Jesus, who have now 
welcomed me in their midst as a kind of old hermit who has always 
loved them. For many years I have also known and admired the 
Little Sisters of Jesus, as I have known a Dominican community that 
—like my friends the Little Brothers, spread out over this thankless 
planet or reunited for some years in their huts of studies at Toulouse 
—is very close to my heart: the Regular Third Order of Catherine de 
Ricci— uncloistcred, contemplative women whose form of poverty 
similarly consists in living from the work of their hands (but within 
their convent). Before settling in Cr£pieux, they first lived in Belle- 
vue, next to Meudon, where Ra'issa, Vera and I passed the best part 
of our poor existence; and now they have a house at Toulouse: so 


that by a singular gift of Providence I can enjoy at the same time the 
blessings of common life with my dear Little Brothers, and the fra- 
ternal help that these Dominican sisters generously lavish upon me. 
This is a good occasion for me to thank God for having kept alive the 
great souls whom he inspired to found these Orders, and to affection- 
ately greet Soeur Magdalene, the foundress of the Little Sisters, as 
well as to ask Pere Voillaume, founder of the Little Brothers of 
Jesus, and Mere Marie-Madeleine, foundress of the Dominican Sis- 
ters of Cr£pieux, to allow the old peasant publicly to express here the 
deep gratitude and the deep friendship that binds him to them 

I have been speaking of the religious orders I know personally 
among those which lead a life essentially dedicated to contemplation 
in the world. There are certainly other institutions that, whether 
taking the vows in a traditionally religious framework or under some 
other form, particularly that of secular Institutes, set themselves the 
goal of living a contemplative life in the world. I think that they all 
are a blessing for our times. 

But since I have spoken of the undeserved gifts I have received 
from God, I want to mention the greatest of them: that of having 
shared, for nearly fifty-five years, since the date (June 11, 1906) when 
the three of us were baptized, the life of two blessed ones, Raissa and 
her sister, who in the midst of the trials of a very agitated existence, 
remained faithful to contemplative prayer without faltering an in- 
stant, all given to union of love with Jesus and love of his Cross, and 
to the work that, through such souls, he pursues invisibly among 
men. They taught me what contemplation in the world is. I myself 
was a laggard, a laborer of the intellect, risking by the very fact to 
think I was really living certain things because my head understood 
them a little and my philosophy could dissert upon them. But I 
have been taught, and taught well, by the experience, the sorrows 
and the insights of these two faithful souls. That is what gives me the 
courage to try to give witness to them, in speaking here of things that 
are above me, knowing well that to have been instructed by example 
and on the job does not make it easy, far from it, to translate what 
one has learned into ideas and words. 

Be that as it may, and passing on to more general considerations, 
I see one truth clearly: what matters in a very special way, and per- 
haps more than anything else, for our age, is the life of prayer and 



of union with God lived in the world , not only by new brotherhoods 
such as those I spoke of above, but also by those who are called to this 
life in the common condition of lay people with all its turmoil, its 
risks and its temporal burdens. And such people arc not as rare as one 
might think, and they would become more numerous if their 
spiritual guides did not dissuade them from the purpose in ques- 
tion, whether because they suppose them incapable of achieving it, 
or because they indulge/ as regards contemplation, in a deep and 
equally inexcusable ignorance or dis-esteem, or because they consider 
it more urgent to organize all laymen of good will in the fascinating 
efficacy of collective action, as far as possible technically organized. 

There was a time (the “baroque age") when apparently among 
some theologians, and in any case in the mass of good Catholics who 
were reasonably well-provided with the good things of the earth, the 
religious state— that is to say, the state of those who vow themselves 
to the search for perfection— was regarded as the state of the perfect 
ones, and consequently the secular state was looked upon as the state 
of the imperfect ones: in such a way that the duty and function provi- 
dentially assigned to the imperfect ones was to be imperfect and to 
stay that way; to live a good worldly life, not over-pious, and solidly 
planted in social naturalism (above all, in that of family ambitions ). 60 
One would have been scandalized had laymen tried to live in any 
other way; they had only to make prosper on earth, through pious 
foundations, monasteries which were, in exchange, to win heaven for 
them; and thus the providential order would be satisfied. 

“This manner of conceiving the humility of laymen seems to have 
been widespread enough in the sixteenth and sevententh centuries. 
That is why the catechism with explanations for the faithful written 
by the Dominican Carranza, then Archbishop of Toledo, was con- 
demned by the Spanish Inquisition on evidence proffered by the fa- 
mous theologian Melchior Cano ." 61 Cano declared “completely 
worthy of condemnation the temerity of giving to the faithful a reli- 
gious instruction that was only proper for priests. . . . He spoke out 
vigorously against the reading of the Holy Scriptures in the vernacu- 
lar, and against those who make it their business to hear confessions 

00 One finch startling evidence of this point of view in the great work of Louis 
Ponnellc and Louis Bordet on the life of St. Philip Neri and the Roman society of 
his times (Paris, 1029). 

61 Humanism* Integral, p. 129. 


all day long. He held highly suspect the zeal displayed by the 
‘spiritual’ in inciting the faithful to go to confession and communion 
frequently, and he is reported to have said in a sermon that frequent 
and widespread reception of the sacraments was one of the signs of 
the coming of the Antichrist.” 62 

We are far from Melchior Cano and his times— but perhaps not so 
far as it might seem. The prejudice must have been a strong one, for 
today a Council of the Holy Church had to take care, if I may say so, 
to raise laity on the shield, to highlight explicitly its essential role in 
the mystical Body, and to remind the world that, according to the 
teaching of the prince of the apostles, all members of the people of 
God, insofar as they live from the grace of Christ, participate in his 
royal priesthood. 

And what I want above all to stress here is the force with which 
the Council has insisted on the universal range of the Lord’s great 
words: “You therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is per- 
fect.” 63 From which one can conclude that the precept to tend 
toward the perfection of charity applies to all . 64 “It is clear that the 
call to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity is 
addressed to all those who believe in Christ, whatever their state or 
way of life.” 65 The laity, contrary to what Melchior Cano thought 
(and well before him, Conrad de Megenburg) 66 “must strive to 
acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth, and insistently beg 
of God the gift of wisdom.” 67 


(on the temporal mission of the Christian) 

The gift of wisdom does not seem to be especially coveted by 
those who hold that the vocation of the laity is purely temporal, and 

02 Saudreau, “Le mouvement antimystique en Espagne au XVIe siecle” Revue 
du Clerge frangais , August 1, 1917. 

03 Matt. 5:48. Constitution on the Church, Ch. V, Par. 40. 

04 This was the central theme of P£re Garrigou-Lagrange's book, Christian 
Perfection and Contemplation (St. Louis, Mo.: Herder & Co., 1946). 

65 Constitution on the Church, Ch. V, Par. 40. 

66 See p. 166 note 36. 

67 Constitution on the Church, Ch. IV, Par. 35. 



entirely directed to the good of the world. In their eyes lay Christians 
would have for their only vocation to work to transform the world, a 
sacred vocation that should carry the world, thanks above all to the 
messianic mission of the proletariat, to the supreme term where it 
would be fully humanized in Christ, and installed in a final reign of 
justice, peace, and human epanouissement , which they confuse w r ith 
the kingdom of God decidedly arrived. 

It is clear that prophets who muddle the things of Caesar and 
those of God to such a point, are false prophets. Yet they have the 
merit of obliging us to ask ourselves in what sense we ought to under- 
stand this 'mission to transform the world/' which enfolds in the 
same formula a basic truth and equally basic errors. 

To transform the world spiritually by means of the Gospel, w'ith a 
view to attaining the ultimate end, parousia and the kingdom of God 
in the glory of the risen— Christians have known since Pentecost that 
they are called to that. But the point in question with what is called 
in our day the mission to "transform the world," is something quite 
different. The phrase is now used to mean a temporal transformation 
of the world with a view to an end which (far from what a Christian 
holds to be the absolutely final end)— is the good of the world itself 
in development. Further, one then acknowledges for oneself con- 
sciously and explicitly the obligation or the mission to work toward 
such a transformation. 

It might be said that from the time of primitive man until that 
wdiich we call the modern age, this explicit notion, which is now so 
brightly in the forefront, of such a duty of such a mission, remained 
absent from the mind of men and played no role in their history. It 
is after a tremendouslv long period of pre-modern history (or, if you 
prefer, of modern pre-history) that it began to take form— since about 
three centuries, let us say, somewhat allegorically, since Descartes de- 
clared that man must become master and possessor of nature. Have 
we to say, too, that Christians should long ago have perceived that, 
along with their spiritual vocation, the ultimate end of which is 
eternity, they also had a temporal task with respect to the world, its 
well-being and its transformation? That w'ould be to speak idealistic 
nonsense, because (without, moreover, losing sight of the extraordi- 
nary effort— quite new in history for its breadth and continuity — of 
the works of mercy that have occupied all Christian centuries, at once 



a substitute and a real preparation for the awareness of a “transforma- 
tion of the world” to be accomplished) historical conditions, speaking 
concretely, were, neither socially and culturally, nor spiritually ripe 
for such an awareness. To tell the truth, that awareness appeared first, 
not among Christians, but in a messianic atheism that was at one and 
the same time a fruit of modern philosophy and “the last Christian 
heresy.” Hence the serious ambiguities from which we suffer today. 

Man’s mission to transform the world temporally, it is Marx who 
brought it to light; but in the wrong way, because of his atheism, and 
of his philosophy (Hegelianism turned upside down) where all 
“nature” is absorbed in the becoming and the dialectic process, and 
because of his faustianism (to exist is to create, existence precedes 
essence, man creates himself by his work). Man, then, is called to a 
titanic labor (“arise, titans of the earth,” as is sung in the Inter - 
nationale ) that will give him full and complete mastery of the world 
and will make him, so to speak, the god of the world. 

It seems to me that one of the aspects of Teilhard de Chardin’s 
work was (without his having deliberately set himself such an objec- 
tive) an attempt to correct this notion; but he corrected it in the 
wrong way, because of his evolutionism, very different from that of 
Marx, but as radical or even more so, and because of his cosmization 
of Christ and Christianity, a sort of reply to “dialectic materialism” 
made by means of a cosmo-christic messianism. Man, then, is called 
to a divinizing work by means of which he will fully accomplish the 
destiny of the world, in the glory of the Risen One, and which will 
make him something like the spirit of the world, in the finally 
triumphant Christ. 

I think that the task of Christian philosophy and theology today is 
to give its true meaning to this mission to transform the world tem- 
porally, which up to now has been presented in such mistaken per- 
spectives. All that I can do as an old philosopher who has already 
cleared the land a bit and is now at the end of his life, is only to 
sketch out some ideas that I believe to be true (and, of course, some 
distinctions that I believe to be well-founded, and terribly necessary). 

First of all, we must, it seems to me, distinguish two fundamentally 
different ways in which men engaged in the life of the world may work 
in the world for the good of the world . From earliest times men have 



worked there, in their ordinary affairs, poor daily labors or great im- 
perial enterprises, unconsciously (like moss or lichen in the process 
of invading a piece of land little by little); and they will continue to 
do so forever, pulled along without their knowing it in the movement 
of history. This is a first level of action, that of ordinary day-to-day 
tasks of temporal life. 

The second level is that of a special task in temporal life; the mis- 
sion to transform the wofld temporally, this time assumed con - 
sciously , with awakened understanding, as free agents capable of 
universal purposes. 

Christians, like everyone else, have worked and will always work on 
the first level of action. And today (in our age of civilization and our 
regimes either of free democracy or of constraint) they have to work 
also on the second, and, to tell the truth, they alone are in a position 
to work well there (supposing, naturally, that they do not lose their 
head). To that end it is essential that those who take charge of 
guiding such a work in movements or parties of Christian inspiration, 
and who have a heavy responsibility with regard to the masses which 
follow them, have a particularly rich doctrinal formation and practical 
wisdom, enlightening them both about the things of the kingdom of 
God and those of the earth, and resting on a theology and a philos- 
ophy founded in truth. 

But what does it consist in, this transformation of the world which 
is the goal of the temporal mission of the Christian? 68 Man will 
never be Master and Possessor of nature and history, titan of the 
world or divinizator of the world; it is a lie to try to convince him of 
such a thing. What is demanded of the Christian is to intervene in 
the destiny of the world, winning at great pains and at the risk of a 
thousand dangers— through science and through social and political 
action— a power over nature and a power over history, but re- 
maining, whatever he does, more than ever a subordinate agent: 
servant of divine Providence and activator or "free associate” of an 

65 To define the vocabulary and avoid all ambiguity, we will reserve the term 
“the temporal mission of the Christian ' to describe this task of working for the 
transformation of the world; whereas the expression “the temporal vocation of the 
Christian” will be used in a much wider sense, which I will stress later. It is un- 
fortunate that I have to use terms so similar to one another: their meaning is 
completely different. 



evolution he does not direct as a master, and which he also serves , 69 
insofar as it develops according to the laws of nature and the laws 
of history (themselves founded on the dynamism of “natures’' ) . 

One must understand, moreover, that the Christian can, and must, 
ask for the coming of the kingdom of God in glory, but is not en- 
titled to ask for— nor to propose as the end of his temporal activity— 
a definite advent of justice and peace, and of human happiness, as 
the term of the progress of temporal history: for this progress is not 
capable of any final term. 

Some philosophical considerations are necessary here. Temporal 
history, true, tends toward an end, since it implies progress. But the 
end to which temporal history tends cannot be the final end; it can 
only be an “infra valent” end: that to which a world in becoming 
tends, and the becoming of which, both in the cosmic (astrophysical) 
order and in the human order, is an evolution, a genesis, a growth that 
has no final term here on earth. Two, and only two hypotheses, in 
effect, are possible here (I am inclined to the second). One can think 
that the becoming of the physical world is indefinite, or, putting it a 
different way, that it takes place through successive cosmic phases of 
expansion and retraction, progress and regression. In that case, human 
history would have to start each time from a new level in recession 
with respect to the term attained in the progressive phase (though 
probably higher than the starting point of said phase; and this would 
go on endlessly). There would be a term for each phase, but no final 
term. In this hypothesis the absolutely final end in which the Chris- 
tian believes (the advent of the kingdom of God) would come as an 
interruption of a becoming (both cosmic and human) that by itself 
would have continued indefinitely. 

In the other hypothesis (where the cosmic future would not imply 
such phases), human history would tend toward a final term which 
could only be the perfect natural happiness of mankind, the end of 
all the groanings of the creature, and which precisely for that reason 
is unattainable. Because while the living conditions of the human 

I would love to find a comparison drawn from our human affairs, but I can- 
not find a good one. For want of a better one, let us think of the staffs of social 
assistants and planners that might have been sent from a more developed country 
to the Queen of Babylon and her empire (and who, naturally, would have been 
subject to the laws of the latter) . 


2° 3 

community would improve, death and corruption would always be 
there— along with the aspirations of the human person which trans- 
cend the earthly well-being of the community, and to which, suppos- 
ing that the person is growing more and more in consciousness, death 
and corruption will become more and more repugnant. And human 
freedom would always be there, capable of using, either for good or 
for evil, more and more powerful means placed at its disposal, so that 
progress in good and. progress in evil would move ahead side by side 
along the road— all that we can hope is that the first will take prece- 
dence over the second. 

Hope and anguish would grow together, the groaning of all of crea- 
tion “in the pain of childbirth” 70 would still be there, and the expec- 
tation that it expresses would become more and more impatient: 
the child with whom the world is pregnant would not come out from 
the womb of the creature. And the upward curve of the progress of 
the world would still continue indefinitely, but in another sense than 
in the first hypothesis. It would be an asymptotic curve, human 
history tending unknowingly toward the kingdom of God, but in- 
capable in itself of reaching this final term. The coming of the king- 
dom would not, in that case, be a simple interruption of a becoming 
with no final term, it would be rather an eruption by which the di- 
vine glory would interrupt the earthly becoming, but in order to lead 
it, through a miraculous begetting, to that final term toward which 
it is tending with no power to reach it: no longer natural happiness, 
but supernatural beatitude. 

If you are not satisfied with this interlude of Christian philosophy, 
you can at least, assuming that you have the faith, listen to the 
revelation of which the Church is the custodian, and which forbids 
us to mix up the orders of finality by imagining that the goal of the 
temporal mission of the Christian is the coming of the kingdom of 
God on earth. This coming will need a new earth and a new heaven, 
and the resurrection of the dead. We must be ready to suffer anything 
for justice's sake in the temporal struggle, but this struggle does not 
claim to eliminate definitively evil, nor to assure definitively the 

70 Cf. St. Paul, Rom. 8:22-23: “For we know that the whole creation has been 
groaning in the pain of childbirth together until now; and not only the creation, 
but w c ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait 
for . . . the redemption of our bodies." See Appendix 1 at the back of the book. 


triumph of good. It is fought to oppose as much as possible the 
progress of evil, and to accelerate as much as possible the progress of 
good in the world; here is the proper business of Christians fighting 
as Christians for the good of the world in a world subject to the law 
of time and of becoming. 

The temporal mission of the Christian, his mission to transform 
the world, has more modest ends than those a Marx or a Teilhard 
assign to man, but much more important ends for man, by virtue of 
the simple fact that they are not illusory (this counts, all the same) : 
to make the earthly city more just and less inhuman, to assure to 
every one the goods basically needed for the life of the body and the 
spirit, as well as the respect, in each one, of the rights of the human } 
person; to lead peoples to a supra-national political organization j 
capable of guaranteeing peace in the world— in short, to cooperate j 
with the evolution of the world in such a way that the earthly hope 
of men in the Gospel should not be frustrated, and the spirit of 
Christ and of his kingdom would in some fashion vivify worldly 
things themselves. Such a work needs to be thus vivified, for without 
the strengthening assistance of Christ's grace our nature is too weak 
to carry it out. Justice without love is inhuman, and love for men and 
for peoples, “which goes well beyond that which justice can accom- 
plish," 71 is itself fragile without theological charity. Without the 
love of charity, work as we might, we will work nothing. 

And these very ends of the temporal mission of the Christian— not 
to be confused with either the absolutely final end which is the full 
coming of the kingdom of God, or with a final term, supposedly at- 
tainable, of the earthly becoming— we well know that, if they are 
possible of themselves (not illusory), they will still never, as a matter 
of fact, be attained in a fully complete and fully satisfying way here 
on earth. Those who fight for such a purpose know that they will al- 
ways be resisted, will win only contested successes, and that they will 
often fail. But what they do they will do well, if they do it truly as 

Let us add finally that the struggle they are conducting in the 
temporal order in full faithfulness to the spirit and the teachings of ] 
Christ, is the proper task (to very different degrees, because some 

71 Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Ch. V, No. 79, Par. 2. 


2° 5 

guide and others follow) of Christians who live in the world: they 
conduct the struggle at their risk and peril. They are helped in this 
battle by the counsels they receive from the Church, and without 
which they could do no good; and they can even be helped in that re- 
spect by the Church in another fashion, in particular cases, when her 
ministers, facing an especially serious situation, judge it their duty to 
raise their voices and to intervene in the temporal order by a word of 
truth, giving witness to diyinf precepts. In any case, for the Church it 
is always only a question of helping the world to resolve its problems, 
not resolving them for it. 



I apologize for this long digression. To tell the truth it was an- 
nouncing another. Because the temporal mission of which I was 
speaking, a concept that has only appeared in our modem age, is far 
from constituting all the temporal activity of the Christian working 
in the world. We must go on, then, to a completely different order of 
questions, more general and more fundamental, which no longer con- 
cern the temporal mission (of transforming the world) that lay 
Christians of today, at least those who feel a “calling” to it, acknowl- 
edge as pertaining to them (Im finished with that, I won't come 
back to it any more), but which concern the layman himself. 

As soon as one reflects a bit seriously on the condition of the lay- 
man, one perceives that it is not as easy as it seems to understand it 
exactly, and moreover that it involves a rather troubling problem 
which we must try to clarify. The Christian layman, in effect, has two 
different vocations; one spiritual, the other temporal, to each of 
which nevertheless, he must respond fully, and even while doing his 
daily task. And in addition he himself is the subject of a deplorable 
ambiguity of vocabulary, at least in a language like French: in his 
quality of layman, the layman is of the world , is he not, as he is of the 
human city (this is expressed in Latin by the genitive: “cst aliquid 
mundi’), and he works (even without the least deliberate purpose) 
for an end which is uot the ultimate end, but the well-being of the 



world, its beauty, its progress. And in his quality as a member of the 
Church he works for the final end which is the kingdom of God fully 
consummated, and he is not of this world; he is in the world without 
being of the world (this is distinguished in Latin by the ablative: 
“non est de hoc mundo, non est de mundo ''). He is of the world 
without being of this world? We ought to look at this closely. 

Let us note first of all that the word “layman” belongs originally to 
the language of the Church. “The notion of the layman includes all 
the positive values and the richness of membership in the Church, 
all the fullness that the name Christian implies. The word 'layman' 
designates a member of Christ, a member who may be a sinner and 
therefore at present dead, but who normally lives with the activities 
of the royal and sacerdotal grace received from Christ. Through the 
sacraments of Christian initiation— Baptism and Confirmation— he 
entered fully into the ecclesial society, the mystical Body of Christ; 
besides grace he received certain 'characters' which integrate him 
into the sacramental organization of the militant Church and depute 
him in a permanent manner to taking part in the celebration of the 
holy cult, not to administer the sacraments but to receive their ef- 
fects— which is also a power, a supernatural capacity derived from 
the priesthood of Christ, but this time in terms of the sacramental 
economy. ... In the proper sense, the layman is no less of the 
Church than the priest; as baptized and confirmed, it is to the Church 
that he belongs, it is toward her and her grace-giving activities that he 
is turned, it is in those terms that he is defined. He is part of an 
eschatological kingdom whose life he must endeavor to lead, and to 
which the Christian community all together must give witness in the 
eyes of the world.'' 72 

Thus the layman— let us say, to adapt ourselves to the current 
idiom, the Christian layman— is in the full sense of the word a mem- 
ber of the Church. Hence it follows that he is not of this world (de 
hoc mundo) as the Church is not of this world; Regnum meum non 
est de hoc mundo ( John 18:36). Ego non sum de hoc mundo ( John 
8:23). “They are in the world'' ( John 17:11 ), but “they are not of the 
world, even as I myself am not of the world ( John 17:16).'' Hence 
it follows too, that the layman has a spiritual vocation, and that he 
has been appointed to work for the kingdom of God (a kingdom that 

72 Michel Labourdette, O.P. Le Sacerdoce et la Mission ouvriere, Paris, 6d. 
Bonne Presse, 1959. 



has already come in a state of pilgrimage and crucifixion, but is still 
to come in its plenitude). 

What, then, of his relationship to the world? And how can he be 
something of the world, and appointed to work for the good of the 
world? The answer, in my opinion, is to be found in the fact of his 
double birth: he was born twice, as is every Christian. He was born of 
the world, and in original sin, as all men are when they come from 
their mothers' wombs." Afid By baptism he was born again, he was 
born of God. (One can say as much also, though in a much less com- 
plete sense, of those who are invisibly members of the visible Church, 
and who, without having the character and grace of baptism, are 
nonetheless born anew, they too, with the life of the grace of Christ 
and of charity; but it is not of them I am speaking here.) It is by 
virtue of this new birth that, from the day of his baptism, he is a 
member of the Church and not of this world. 

And of his first birth he retains nothing as concerns the sin of 
Adam (except the weaknesses and inner disorder our nature has in- 
herited from it)— he is delivered from this sin insofar as it prevents 
him from entering into beatitude and the vision of God. He is 
washed, rescued, redeemed by the grace of Christ. But he keeps, like 
everyone else, being a man in the world; and further— if he does not 
decide to dedicate himself either to the cult of God and the power of 
giving the sacraments by becoming a priest, or to the search for perfec- 
tion by embracing the religious state (being, in either case, even 
more deeply in the second instance than in the first , 73 separated from 
the world and from the ordinary human vocation)— he also keeps the 

78 Members of religious communities who live in the very midst of the world 
(not separated or shielded from it in as externally visible a sense as those who 
have chosen cloistered life) are nonetheless, by virtue of their vows and their 
consecrated state, and the duties which that state imposes on them, intrinsically 
separated from the world. 

And to a certain degree the priest also (a good many of them, today, do not 
like this, but that's the way it is) is separated from the world by virtue of his 
dedication to the cult and to the administration of the sacraments. He is no longer 
a laborer of the world, nor assigned to a temporal mission aiming at the good of 
the world. He is no longer answerable to the temporal order except, if I may say 
so, by lending himself to it, and in order “not to scandalize thc-in," as Jesus said 
to Peter with respect to the tax collectors, ut non scandalixemus cos: “But that we 
may not scandalize them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that 
coruies up. And opening its mouth you wilt find a stater; take that and give it to 
them for me and for you." (Matt. 17:27) 



ordinary human condition and vocation that come to us by virtue of 
our first or natural birth (washed of sin by the second). A member of 
Christ and of the Church, he is no longer born of the world , he is no 
longer de hoc mundo; but finding himself in the ordinary state of life 
in which men are placed by virtue of their being bom here below, he 
has to work for the good of the world and is something of the world 
(in the genitive, aliquid mundi ): what word may I use? He is a 
laborer of the world: (I do not say a “member” of the world, because 
the world does not have organic unity.) The layman is a member of 
only one universal body — the Church, which embraces heaven and 
earth. And as a laborer of the world he is also of the world , a fact 
which prevents him in no way from being no longer of the world , no 
longer de hoc mundo , by virtue of his second birth. 

That is, if I have reasoned correctly, how the ambiguity implicit in 
the word layman is resolved. 

And that, too, is how the layman does have two distinct vocations: 
a spiritual vocation as member of the Church; and a temporal voca- 
tion as a laborer of the world, as a member of the Church who is a 
laborer of the world. The two vocations are distinct, they are not 
separate. He is not a laborer of the world with a certain portion of his 
being, and a member of the Church with another portion: it is the 
member of the Church who is the laborer of the world, sent to the 
land of the things which are Caesar ’s. 

His temporal vocation, his vocation as a laborer of the world 
(which covers only a part of his life and his activity — obviously the 
larger part and the part which demands more of his time), is to as- 
sume the ordinary tasks of the secular condition. His spiritual voca- 
tion, his vocation as a member of the Church— -which is distinct from 
his temporal vocation but which must inspire it, because it covers his 
whole life and all his activities— -is to live more and more profoundly 
the life of the mystical Body, and therefore first of all to watch over 
his own soul and to respond as well as possible to the precept (ad- 
dressed to all within the Church) of tending to the perfection of 
charity; to participate in the sacraments of the Church and her wor- 
ship; and to participate also (a point that the Council particularly 
emphasized) in her apostolate. 

What form should this participation in the Church's apostolate 
take? Many different forms (of which one only, as I will emphasize 



in a few minutes, is absolutely fundamental and required of all). 
More distinctions? It can't be helped; what is at stake is worth the 

There are many different cases to consider: that, for example, of 
Catholic Action properly so called, where certain laymen participate 
in the apostolate of the Church, with a special mandate from her, in 
organizations whose activities involve, by reason of this mandate, the 
Church herself and.thfc frierafehy. These organizations, which were 
born of the initiative of Pius XI, undoubtedly play an important role, 
but in a restricted sphere. 

Next are a great variety of cases, and I can only speak of them in 
general terms: from the case of certain laymen (still laymen and 
laborers of the world, sometimes even in positions of power) who 
participate in the apostolate of the Church in groups that partake 
more or less of the nature of the religious state (of itself, separated 
from the world), to the much more common case where laymen like 
others participate in this apostolate by cooperating with movements 
or works dedicated either to the development of spirituality (retreats, 

| for example) or to a missionary task. These varied forms of participa- 
tion in the apostolate of the Church have two things in common: 
they are, to a greater or lesser degree, under the direction of the 
clergy, and they are, on the other hand, for those laymen who devote 
part of their time to them, extra activities. Good, useful, excellent, 
f let us not lose sight of the fact that we are running the risk— by the 
very fact that they are special and particularly remarkable forms of 
participation in the apostolate of the Church, whose usefulness is self- 
► evident— of being mistaken about them. How? By somewhat heed- 

lessly limiting the participation of laymen in the apostolate of the 
Church to these forms, and by believing that this participation con- 
sists only in them. 

That is not the case. All these diverse forms of the lay apostolate 
are optional. But there is one that is absolutely basic and necessary 
for all , and this one has a properly fundamental importance: I mean 
the apostolate that laymen exercise in their daily tasks themselves (in 
the ordinary labors of the life of the world ), 74 and in all their activi- 

74 There We have the first temporal level of action that i alluded to (p. 201 ) — 
that which is absolutely universal, and in which every (Christian) layman has been 
involved ever since there have been Christians. 



ties, if they acquit themselves as Christians in these labors and 
activities. Their spiritual vocation and their temporal vocation, then, 
have to do with the same work : the temporal vocation having to do 
with the object of this work, the spiritual vocation having to do with 
the mode or the manner in which it is accomplished, the spirit in 
which it is done . 75 

As soon as a layman lives from the life of Christ and of the mystical 
Body in the depths of his soul, and does not imagine that when he 
does his ordinary task as a layman he should, under the pretext that 
he is a layman, seal in those depths of his soul faith, fraternal charity, 
and the love of Jesus which inhabits his heart; as soon as he grants the 
Good News that he carries within himself its freedom of movement; 
in short, when he never forgets , whatever he does, that he is a Chris- 
tian; in other words, when he does as a Christian everything that he 
does : 76 then the spirit which animates him will radiate from him, 
and he will give witness to the Gospel, not by preaching it, but by 
living it, and by the manner in which he carries out the most banal 
tasks. And that will happen without his having to think of exercising 
an apostolate: the less he thinks of it, the more it will be worth! It is 
from itself and as if instinctively, that the testimony of the Church 
will pass through him; it is enough for this that this Christian should 
never hide— either from himself or from others— that he is a Chris- 
tian; it is enough that he should never have before others, through 
fear of offending what they think to be proper, any kind of shame in 
being a Christian. 

Obviously, to act as a Christian one must be as instructed in the 
Christian verities as is possible, according to one's state and the role 

75 “They live in the world, that is, in each and in the all of the secular professions 
and occupations they live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from 
which the very web of their existence is woven. At this place they are called by God, 
so that, by exercising their proper function as led by the spirit of the Gospel, they 
may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way 
they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life re- 
splendent in faith, hope and charity .” (Constitution on the Church, Ch. IV, 
Par. 31) 

76 That is what the apostles’ teaching tells us: “Whether you eat or drink, or 
whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). (Cf. Col. 3:17 and 
1 Pet. 4:11) 



one may have to play in cultural and political life . 77 Obviously also, 
some laymen animated by the spirit of the Gospel may be led to 
form more or less short-lived groupings born spontaneously out of 
friendship , and which are neither denominational nor under the di- 
rection of the clergy, but which will still demand from those who 
animate them a more extensive doctrinal preparation. These, how- 
ever, are particular cases and I am now speaking, on the contrary, of 
that which is common to all , the radiance of the Gospel shining 
through the daily task itself. The medium through which this radi- 
ance passes may be sometimes a simple brotherly word, a look, a 
gesture, the spontaneous manner of reacting to an event, one of the 
almost imperceptible signs (so much more important than is usually 
thought), one of these microsigns of the physics of the soul that are 
registered in the unconscious and that our fellow-beings perceive with 
such redoubtable infallibility. Or else it may be more tangible evi- 
dence— a word of truth, a concrete engagement, a pardon granted, a 
sacrifice, a perhaps grave risk taken for the good of someone else or 
for justice's sake. That truth is always there, that whatever task he 
performs, a Christian can, and must, perform it as a Christian. I have 
said often enough in this book that one can philosophize as a Chris- 
tian. One can also teach history, literature, even mathematics as a 
Christian— not by trying to make mathematics say something Chris- 
tian, but in praying for one's students and loving them, and by the 
very manner in which one treats them, and the very manner in which 
one teaches, for teaching is something concrete that betrays, without 
our noticing it, many things that we have within us, and through 
which we are in a human relationship with others, while speaking to 
their minds. One can practice medicine as a Christian, direct a busi- 
ness as a Christian, be a carpenter, a potter, an automobile mechanic 
as a Christian; one can be a factory hand as a Christian (not, no 
doubt, while working on the production line, but there are always 
one's “buddies" and the pub where one goes to have a drink with 
them). Human relationships extend everywhere. And wherever there 

77 We have already discussed (pp. 198-205) the temporal mission of the 
Christian (which has for its goal the “transformation of the world,” and which 
is on another level of temporal activity, where the layman is not merely a laborer 
of the world but an activator of the world). To act as Christians , those who guide 
others need then a particularly complete doctrinal formation. I am not speaking 
of that here because it is a special task of the secular life. 



are human relationships, the Gospel, if we live it, introduces of itself 
its testimony, through the manner in which we act. 

I am dwelling on all this because it is the very consequence of the 
all important truth discussed above on the subject of the lay Chris- 
tian, a member of the Church who is a laborer of the world, and 
whose spiritual vocation covers his whole life. 

For many centuries our Western civilization has suffered from a 
fatal separatism, an unnatural gash or cleavage— everywhere, on all 
levels of activity— between the temporal work of the lay Christian and 
the spiritual vocation he owes to what he is: a member of the People 
of God. It is this evil that one must remedy first of all. 


So much for my two digressions. They help us, perhaps, to see 
more clearly the implications and the practical consequences of that 
call to holiness, and to a real and personal participation in the life 
of the mystical Body, of which the Council so vigorously reminded 
all members of the People of God, laymen as well as others. 

“The Lord Jesus, the divine teacher and model of all perfection, 
preached holiness of life to each and every one of his disciples of 
every condition. He himself stands as the author and consummator of 
this holiness of life: 'You therefore are to be perfect, even as your 
heavenly Father is perfect' . . . 

“Thus it is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of 
whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian 
life and to the perfection of charity." 78 

All are called to holiness— I am thinking of my old godfather Leon 
Bloy and of that great phrase of his which echoed so powerfully in 
many hearts: “IZ riy a quune tristesse , c'est de rietre pas des saints." 
(“There is only one sadness; it is not to be a saint.”) 

I am also thinking that in order to answer this call addressed to all, 
the important thing is to start out, wherever one happens to be, in 
relying entirely on the grace of God; yet to advance along this road, 
where, with respect to that which comes from man, everything is so 
difficult, and so marvelously disposed with respect to that which 
comes from God, there are certain normally indispensable aids that 

78 Constitution on the Church, Ch. V, Par. 40. 


21 3 

we receive, on the one hand, from the liturgical life of the Church 
(above all, the sacrifice of Mass); on the other hand, from the com- 
munion of the soul with its God in oraison (I am using the French 
word because orison has become obsolescent)— let us say, in wordless 
prayer of love, and in that union of love that we call contemplation. 
(To translate oraison , I shall henceforth say “love-prayer” or “con- 
templative prayer.”) 

There are some question* to be cleared up here, and which are not 
easy. I shall try to say a few words about them in the following 


I would like to submit here only a few reflections of a very general 
nature on the two normally necessary aids for men who have heard 
the call addressed to all, and who are stumbling ahead along a road 
whose final end is not of this world. (The road is not of this world 
either, although we move along it in the world, and it is precisely be- 
cause of that that we cannot see the end.) The first aid is the com- 
mon prayer of the Church (“common” is the right word; “commun- 
itarian” is, in the present instance, a bastard word in which one finds 
delight only because it sounds social-minded). The second aid is what 
is called “private” prayer (a bad word, because when one is with 
Jesus, Mary, and all our friends in heaven, right in the midst of the 
invisible communion of saints, one certainly doesn't lack company) 
—let us rather call it contemplative oraison which comes about clauso 
ostio (or in the desert where there are no doors, or even in interior 
solitude when the doors have been broken open). 

On one hand, therefore, we have liturgical prayer, which has the 
unparalleled privilege of being centered on the Mass; on the other 
hand, contemplation, which has the wonderful privilege of making 
the heart, in a union of person to person, listen to Jesus present 
within it. These two privileges are eminent signs of the essential 
distinction that we must make between the liturgy of the Catholic 
Church (and of bcf separated sister-Churches in the East) and the 
ritual services of other religious families, however venerable they may 

21 4 


sometimes be; as well as between the supernatural and the natural 
mystique, no matter how far the latter may sometimes advance in in- 
terior concentration. These two distinctions, moreover, do not over- 
lap: the first having to do with the cult, which is visible, the second 
having to do with a spiritual experience that, when it is supernatural, 
presupposes the habitual regime of the gifts of the Spirit— which is 
not the case with the natural mystique, even in souls inhabited by 


Raissa and I published, some years ago, a little book entitled 
Liturgy and Contemplation , 79 I shall not retrace here the positions 
that we advanced, except to state that I adhere to them more firmly 
than ever. But I would like to dwell on one point that, with respect 
to the liturgy, seems to me of primary importance. 

In the public worship that the Church offers to God, the holy work 
in which we participate is accomplished at one and the same time by 
the mystical Body and by its Head, by the Church and by Christ him- 
self. “The sacred liturgy is . . . the public worship which our Re- 
deemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the 
worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, 
and through him to the Heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship 1 
rendered by the mystical Body of Christ , in the entirety of its Head 
and members. . . .” 80 

That is true of all liturgical functions— the liturgy of the sacra- . 
ments or the common recitation of the canonical hours: Christ is 
always there, either to act through the agency of the one who admin- 
isters the sacrament, or to be in the midst of those who are gathered 
together in his name. But this is true of the Mass in an absolutely 
eminent sense, because the Mass is the act or the sacramental mys- 
tery by means of which Christ perpetuates on earth and in time, until 
the end of centuries, the sacrifice from which the Church draws her 
life. That is why, even if we imagine the most dire prospects of 

79 New York, P. J. Kenedy and Sons, i960. 

80 Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei et hominum , November 20, 1947. Official 
English version (The Sacred Liturgy), Vatican Polyglot Press. 


21 5 

universal persecution, I do not believe that God will ever permit that 
a single day pass without at least one Mass being celebrated in the 
world. The Mass is thus the center, uniting heaven and earth, of the 
life of the kingdom of God in its earthly pilgrimage. It is also the 
center of the worship that the Church offers to Christ and to his 
Father. The sacrifice of the Mass is the center to which all other 
elements of the liturgy relate . 81 

At a certain moment "during the Mass (and that is why the “sacred 
silence” 82 is then demanded), there is a kind of divine flash of light- 
] ning; at the words of the double consecration (which, from the fact 
that it sacramentally separates the Body of the Lord from his Blood, 
is an efficient sign of his death on the cross), Jesus makes himself 
present on the altar in the state of a victim: suddenly and mysteri- 
ously, during a few minutes of our lives, the sacrifice in which he gave 
himself for us is there before us, his supreme offering of himself to 
the Father, the act by which he won for all men the grace of redemp- 
tion. At the Mass the faithful do not sacrifice with the priest; the 
priest alone, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, has the 
power to sacrifice. The faithful possess by virtue of their Baptism 
another sort of power, the power to unite themselves to the priest in 
the offering of the sacrificial victim (and also, like the priest, to be 
nourished by the Body of Christ after he has been nourished by it in 
the sacramental communion in which he consumes the sacrifice). 
11 They act, then, in their very title as visible or sacramentally marked 
members of the Church who, in union with her Head, and in a sacred 
rite performed in common with him, offer to God the Lamb that 
. takes away the sins of the world. If in the same sanctuary there are 
present unbaptized souls who seek God, it is possible that during the 
Mass they receive greater graces than some of the baptized present, 
yet, having not the mark of Baptism, they are not included in the 
sovereign act of adoration and thanksgiving that the Church is 

81 Everything in the lituTgy relates to the Mass, either directly and explicitly, as 
is the case with all that is done during the Mass itself, before the sacrifice (the 
readings and the scrtnon) and after it — or else indirectly and implicitly, as is the 
case in the liturgy of the sacraments and the sacramcntals, or in the recitation of 
the canonical hours, or in the cycle of the liturgical year. That is why I speai; here 
especially of the Mass. 

92 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Par. 30. 

2 1 6 


When we meditate on all this a bit, it seems to me that we see 
several things a little better. In the first place we see more clearly the 
essentially collective or common aspect of the liturgical celebration. 
It is a single Body that acts, in union with its Head, and it is precisely 
as a member of this Body, taken into the action of the Body and 
participating in it, that each of the faithful gathered in the common 
celebration offers to God the worship that is due to him. 

In the second place, one sees a bit better why it is necessary to say 
that the celebration of the Mass is the most exalted act that can take 
place on earth, and that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the 
activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount 
from which all her power flows.” 83 That is obvious, since in the 
Mass, the center of the whole liturgy, it is the Head of the mystical 
Body himself, the Incarnate Word, who, while still remaining in 
heaven, makes himself, as well as the supreme act that he accom- 
plished on the cross, invisibly present on earth; and it is to his action, 
an action of God made man that the priest and the community of the 
faithful are united, the latter as well as the former by virtue of the 
sacrament whose character he bears (Holy Orders for one, Baptism 
for all). 

In the third place, one sees a bit better how the end that Christ 
himself (with the entire Church) intends and attains in the celebra- 
tion of the Mass, wherever held, let us say the divinely attained aim 
of this celebration, is the common act of offering and adoration that 
Christ himself and the Church accomplish through the medium of 
a tiny part of the Church— a local assembly offering its worship to 
God on such and such a day and in such and such a church or chapel. 
The priest may have all the human weaknesses possible, the faithful 
may be as distracted and inattentive as can be (as is the case in many 
funeral masses, which are nevertheless very moving when accompan- 
ied by the old traditions of the poor people, and in many masses to 
celebrate the annual reopening of civil institutions): if one does 
what he has to do, in performing the sacrifice that sanctifies the 
Church, whatever may be the case with others, who should be unit- 
ing themselves at the same moment to the offering of the sacrificial 
Lamb, the divinely attained aim will certainly have been attained, the 

83 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Ch. I, Par. 10. 



act of offering and of adoration that the Church wanted to perform 
will have been performed, the Mass will have been celebrated. 

Undoubtedly; but assuming the conditions that I have mentioned, 
the aim divinely attained by means of men will have been attained, 
but badly attained as far as men are concerned; the work that the 
Church wanted to accomplish will have been accomplished, but badly 
accomplished as far as men are concerned; the Mass will have been 
celebrated, but badly* celebrated on the part of men. For what is in- 
volved is a holy work, and therefore the celebrant as well as the faith- 
ful should there be recollected in God as far as possible; the celebrant 
himself should lead as saintly a life as possible, and the faithful, too, 
should strive toward such a life. That is why the liturgical reform, so 
necessary and so long awaited, insists so earnestly that the faithful 
“should participate consciously , devoutly and actively in the sacred 
action \* 84 this is done by speaking and singing as public worship de- 

M “They should leam to offer themselves ; through Christ their Mediator , they 
should be drawn into ever more perfect union with God and with each other t 
so that finally God may be all in all/' Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Par. 48. 
Let me observe that, as regards the application of this precept, many commentators, 
when they come to the formula quoted here in my text (all in italics in the Con- 
stitution itself) put strong emphasis on the word actively , without giving the 
same attention to the word devoutly , which receives the same emphasis in the 
Constitution. Let me point out also that the word actively itself refers to the inner 
movement of the soul as much as (and even much more, according to the teach- 
ings of the Encyclical Mediator Dei) to the external activity of the voice. 

Finally, I would like to make one last remark. (I know that this will displease 
many people, but I can’t help it, truth obliges me to speak.) If, among those who 
assist at Mass, there are prayerful souls who find themselves so drawn to inner 
recollection that they can neither speak nor sing, nor participate actively in the 
liturgy except on the highest level, one should leave them to their silence and 
respect in them the liberty of the Spirit of God. 

1 read in a pamphlet published in 1957 by Mile. Madeleine Basset on the little 
servant of God, Anne de Guign6, who died at ten and one-half years of age, that 
toward the age of eight or nine she asked her mother one day: “Mama, would you 
let me pray without a prayerbook during Mass, because I know the prayers by 
heart and I am often distracted when I read them, but when I speak to Jesus I 
am not districted at all. It is like talking with someone, Mama, one knows well 
what oue is saying.” — “And whit do you say to Jesus?” — “That I love him, then 
I talk to him about you, about the others [her brothers and sisters, her relatives], 
that Jesus might make them good. I talk to him most of all about sinners. And 
then, I tell him that I would like to see him. . . .” This little girl did not have a 
special duty like the priest or the altar boy, to pronounce the words required for 
tnc sacred function. The silenoe in which she spoke to Jesus had without a doubt 
much moie value than if she had sung, under duress, even the Gloria or the Credo. 

2 1 8 


mands; but words and song alone do not suffice, the inner attention 
of the soul is needed, and a desire for God . 85 Indeed, the faithful do 
not assist well at Mass, and do not participate well , unless, according 
to the vast diversity of the conditions of each one, there is in them, 
be it in the most implicit and unapparent manner, by a mere sigh of 
the soul, a response to that universal call to sanctity on which the 
Council has also insisted. 

Finally, in the fourth place, and this is the point I was coming to, 
one understands a bit better why the liturgical life is a normally neces- 
sary aid for those who set out toward the perfection of charity. Be- 
cause in the Church, and in an infinitely more real sense than in all 
other “societies” worthy of the name, is verified the principle that the 
common good is a good common to the whole and to the parts; or in 
other words, the common good flows back finally on to the parts, who 
are human persons. It is by virtue of the work accomplished in com- 
mon in the liturgical celebration, and the sanctification that flows 
back from it to each of those who have truly participated, that Chris- 
tians who endeavor to advance toward sanctity are made better able 

85 After having reminded us that the liturgy is at the same time an interior and 
an exterior worship, Pius XII, in the Encyclical Mediator Dei , strongly emphasizes 
that “the chief element of divine worship must be interior. For we must always 
live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him, with Him and 
through Him the Heavenly Father may be duly glorified. The sacred Liturgy re- 
quires, however, that both of these elements be intimately linked with each other. 
This recommendation the Liturgy itself is careful to repeat, as often as it pre- 
scribes an exterior act of worship . . . 

“Very truly, the Sacraments and the Sacrifice of the altar, being Christ's own 
actions, must be held to be capable in themselves of conveying and dispensing 
grace from the divine Head to the members of the mystical Body. But if they are 
to produce their proper effect, it is absolutely necessary that our hearts be rightly 
disposed to receive them. . . . These members are alive, endowed and equipped 
with an intelligence and will of their own. It follows that they are strictly required 
to put their own lips to the fountain, imbibe and absorb for themselves the life- 
giving water, and rid themselves personally of anything that might hinder its 
nutritive effect in their souls." 

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presupposes the teachings of Mediator 
Dei; it did not have to repeat them, because its object is first of all to reorganize 
the liturgy in practice. The Constitution does not, however, fail to note that “in 
order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the 
faithful come to it with proper dispositions , that their minds be attuned to their 
voices, and that they cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain 
(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Par. n.) Concise formulas that, if we read 
them with the proper attention, go extremely far (as do those quoted above, at the 
beginning of the preceding note), and that confirm what I have tried to say here. 


21 9 

to move forward. What they have done during the celebration, they 
have done as members of the whole. What they receive , they receive 
ultimately as persons. 

And I am not speaking of the special graces of light and love that 
one or another may receive from a single word of the liturgy that 
strikes the heart by surprise (and seems sometimes to have been said 
for you), nor am I speaking of the sort of release and liberation 86 
that sacred song (availing itself of the natural grace of music) often 
has the power to produce through the native tenuousness of the hu- 
man voice. (This is not the case with loud-speakers.) 

The conclusion of these reflections can, it seems to me, be formu- 
lated thus: it is essential to the Christian to be at one and the same 
time person and member; and he is always both, since these two as- 
pects of him are distinct but cannot be separated. I observed a mo- 
ment ago that in the liturgical celebration Christians are sanctified first 
of all through the flowing back on each one of the good accomplished 
through their common work. It is not above all, therefore, by what he 
does as a member of the whole, in doing his part of the work of the 
whole, it is above all by what he finally receives as a person on whom 
the good of the whole is flowing back, that the Christian is then sanc- 
tified, and that the liturgy is for him an indispensable aid in his prog- 
ress toward God. 

I have just said that this aid is indispensable, that it is normally 
necessary. It should be added that God's ways are infinitely gentle , 87 
and take into account the conditions and possibilities of each, in their 
limitless variety. So much the better if we have the possibility of 
assisting at daily Mass. Most laymen do not. And the sick (and some- 
times even those in good health, because of some insurmountable 
obstacle) are deprived even of Sunday Mass. God will certainly find a 
way to send them a crumb of the great common meal. We have the 
sacrament of the sick, and a priest can bring them the Body of Christ. 

80 “Letting singing and music act in oneself, letting the soul 'open itself to 
divine things' (St. Thomas). When music produces this liberating effect, one is 
suddenly delivered from the constraint of effort and from distractions, from 
irrelevant images, and, as it were, from the distance between time and eternity. 
Burning love invades the soul. The conquered heart gives us the sweetness of tears." 
Journal de Rdismi, n. 161, p. 304. From the English translation by Antonia White 
(to be published) . 

87 Cr. the tract, Det Motors divines, quoted farther on, p. 239. 



And even if that is impossible, and if a man lacks the strength to utter 
a word, or to join himself in spirit with what the Church is doing, or 
even to sigh for God, charity is enough, if it is in his heart. 


Pati divina, to suffer things divine, in an inner experience in which 
the soul does not act but is rather acted upon, acted upon by God un- 
der the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; pati divine— these are the 
words that come to me the instant I try, as poorly qualified as I might 
be, to speak of contemplation. This word “ contemplation,” like all 
words when one uses them to describe things of a very high order, is 
apt to betray those exalted things. There is a natural or philosophical 
contemplation 88 which is only of an intellectual and speculative or- 
der. Christian contemplation, because it comes from love and tends 
to love, and is a work of love, has nothing to do with that. Per 
amorem agnoscimns, there “we know through love,” said St. Greg- 
ory the Great . 89 It is only out of respect for this mysterious knowl- 
edge, given by love, that Christian tradition has preserved the word 

But with the word “contemplation” vocabulary plays many other 
tricks on us, and I would like to say a few words about this right at 
the start. Suppose you were trying to find out what poetry is: you 
would go immediately to poets; in reading them you would learn, let's 
hope, what poetry consists of, or what it is by nature, and you could 
then speak of poetry as a thing known or grasped in itself or in its 
typical traits. At the same time and by the same token you would be 
speaking of the poetry of poets. 

After that you will become aware that poetry is not confined to 
poets. There is an admirable poetry in the life of a Christopher Co- 
lumbus or a Benedict Labre, in the thought of a Plato or an Einstein, 
in the movement of the galaxies. Are you going to look there to find 
out what poetry is in itself or in its typical trait? That would be im- 

88 There is also a “theological contemplation,” in which the theologian, at the 
end of his labor of reason, contemplates intellectually, but with the savor of grace, 
the truth that he has attained as a summit of the opus theologicum. The infused 
contemplation of which I am speaking here is not at all like that either. 

86 Moralia , X, 8, 13. 



possible, because it is found there in an atypical , hidden or masked 
mode. It is the poetry of great discoverers and great saints, of philo- 
sophical or scientific geniuses, of the world of the stars. You ought to 
recognize the existence of this poetry, which is not that of the poets 
(nor of the musicians or other servants of art). 

But in fixing your attention and that of others on the poetry of the 
poets, as you must do when you describe what poetry is in itself or in 
its typical traits , yoil risk making yourself and others believe that 
poetry is confined to the poets (or the other servants of art). And the 
poetry which does exist elsewhere is thus in danger of being disre- 

Something a bit like that happens with contemplation, but there it 
poses much greater problems. We have the contemplation of contem- 
platives in the strict sense of the word, of souls wholly dedicated to 
contemplation: it is to that type we are referring when we speak (as 
I would like to do now) of what contemplation is in itself or in its 
typical traits . But we must not forget that there is also the contempla- 
tion of those who are not contemplatives in the strict sense of the 
word, souls wholly dedicated to contemplation, but who have never- 
theless crossed a certain threshold in the life of the spirit that the 
contemplatives also cross. We love to contrast Martha and Mary, but 
we must not forget that Martha was not some directress of the works 
of proselytism in the Temple praying only with her lips, as may be the 
case occasionally (that sometimes happens). Martha prayed in her 
heart, like Mary; she was concerned with many things, but she de- 
voted herself to oraison and contemplated in secret, perhaps pleasing 
God as much as Mary, while cooking and busying herself with all 
those things of which her sister left her the burden. Was she too per- 
haps one of those faithful souls in whom contemplation remains 
atypical and masked? In her particular case this seems highly improb- 
able. In any case, like all souls that advance toward God (and like all 
saints—we venerate her as such) she answered, and answered well, the 
call to contemplation addressed to all. I shall come back a little later 
to these questions of major importance. I have alluded to them here 
parenthetically, as a preliminary to what I will say later. The parenthe- 
sis is closed. 

I recalled a moment ago the w'ords of St. Gregory the Great: in 
contemplation “we know through love." In Christian contemplation 



intelligence is there supremely alive, in a nocturnal darkness more in- 
structive than any concept: blind as to its natural mode of operation, 
intelligence knows only by virtue of the connaturality that love cre- 
ates between the soul who loves and the God it loves, a God who loves 
it first. 

“Contemplation, ” said Pere Lallemant, “is a simple, free, penetrat- 
ing view of God or of things divine, which proceeds from love and 
tends toward love. ... It is the exercise of the purest and most per- 
fect charity. Love is its beginning, its exercise and its end.” 90 

We could also say, more briefly, that “contemplation is a silent 
prayer which takes place in recollection in the secret of the heart, and 
is directly ordered to union with God.” 91 
According to the common doctrine of the theologians, contempla- 
tion is dependent at one and the same time on the theological virtues, 
supernatural in their essence, and on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, 
“doubly supernatural, not only in their essence like the theological 
virtues, but also in their mode of action.” 92 This mode of action ex- 
ceeds human measure because “the soul is guided and immediately 
moved by divine inspiration.” 93 


I have noted before that the Christian is at one and the same time 
inseparably person and member. 

In the case of the liturgy (and, par excellence , of the Mass) it is 
not primarily by what the Christian does , as member of the mystical 
Body, in participating at the celebration (in speaking, singing, and 
above all in uniting himself wholeheartedly to the work of offering 
and of adoration accomplished by the mystical Body and by its 
Head) , it is primarily by what he receives, by that which flows back on 
him, as person f from that common work, that he is helped in his 
progress toward the perfection of charity. 

With contemplation, the terms are inverted: it is first of all by 

90 La Doctrine spirituelle t ed. Pottier (Paris: T£qui, 1936), pp. 430-432. 

91 Rai'ssa, in Liturgy and Contemplation , p. 31. 

92 R. P. Garrigou-Lagrange, Perfection chr 6 tienne et Contemplation , Paris, 
Descl£e De Brouwer, 5th ed., v. I, p. 34. He treats of the contemplation that the 
theologians call “infused” (that which is under discussion here). 

»3 Ibid. 


what the Christian does, or rather receives himself as person ''im- 
mediately moved by divine inspiration/' that he is helped in his prog- 
ress toward the perfection of charity. And by the same token, since 
this person is, inseparably, a member of the mystical Body, all the 
communicable goods, all the treasures of redeeming grace that over- 
flow from his contemplation are made part of the common good of 
the mystical Body, and come to enrich the common treasury of the 
communion of saints. - - 

And the contemplative, by his testimony and his presence among 
men, is useful and necessary to their spiritual life in yet another way, 
more apparent but less essential, if I may say so, though certainly 
needed of itself. "If they lapse, is it not because they no longer re- 
member the relish of God and of his Light? To make them know 
them, such is the outward function of the contemplative: the uncre- 
ated Light, the eternal Wisdom which is Christ; the substantial Sav- 
iour which is the Holy Ghost. External works themselves, works of 
mercy, owe their excellence to the power they have of revealing the 
benevolence of God. There have to be souls solely occupied in drink- 
ing at this heavenly spring. Through them, afterwards, the living 
WateT of love and its divine taste reach those whose vocation com- 
prises more activity. Contemplation is like a water wheel which draws 
up the water and makes it flow into channels. If contemplation ceased 
entirely, hearts would soon be dried up. . . . Love of one's neigh- 
bor, as well as love of God, obliges the contemplative to remain close 
to the divine source." 94 All that, which is so true, is like the sign 
which makes manifest among us the completely invisible function of 
which I have just spoken, and which is essentially, in the mystical 
Body, the function ("mystical" itself, in the same sense of the word) 
of the contemplative as member of that Body. 

Member and person at the same time, the member who partici- 
pates in the liturgy receives its fruits as person, because the good of 
the whole flows back on the part. At the same time person and mem- 
ber, the human person who contemplates God in love gives his fruit 
as member by virtue of the integration of the good of the part into 
the good of the whole. 

We can see that two different and complementary perspectives are 
involved here. And by the same token we can see how absurd it is to 

M Journal <U Raissa, op. cvt. t p. 67. 

22 4 


oppose liturgy and contemplation to one another. They demand one 
another, and one implies the other. The liturgy, because it is worship 
in spirit and in truth, requires, in order that one truly participate in 
it, that the participants harbor in their souls the love of God and the 
desire to unite themselves to him. It does not require that they all be 
contemplatives, which would be to ask the impossible, nor that they 
all habitually live the life of love-prayer (so much the better, how- 
ever, if they could!). But it demands that there be among them some 
who habitually live the life of love-prayer, and it demands that the 
others have at least the first seed of this life within them without their 
knowing it, thanks to the attention of their heart to the words that 
their lips pronounce. And the fruit of the liturgy is to help all those 
who participate in it to advance, from as distant a point as it may be 
for some, toward the perfection of charity; and to help those who as- 
pire to contemplative prayer to advance along that road. 

And contemplation develops in the soul of the contemplative the 
desire to unite himself to the worship offered by the Church he loves 
to the One whom she loves and whom he loves; and it develops first 
of all the desire to participate in the celebration of the Mass, in which 
the sacrifice of the Lamb is perpetuated among us, and in which his 
Body is given to us as food. And contemplation has for its fruit an in- 
crease in the common treasury of the goods of the communion of 

We also see that, far from being opposed, the two great declarations 
of the Council and of Pope Paul VI complement and confirm one an- 
other: the Council's assertion that "the liturgy is the summit toward 
which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time, it is the 
fount from which all her power flows"; 95 and that of Paul VI, that 
"contemplation is the most noble and the most perfect form of hu- 
man activity, against which one measures, in the pyramid of human 
acts, the proper value of these acts, each according to its kind." 96 

And this is so because the first statement is made in the perspec- 

95 Cf. p. 216. 

96 Discourse of December 7, 1965, delivered by the Pope at the closing of the 
Council. . . Adeo ut homo, cum mentem et cor suum in Deo defigere nititur, 
contemplationi vacando , actum animi sui eliciat qui omnium nobilissimus ac 
perfectissimus est habendus ; actum dicimus a quo nostris etiam temporibus 
mnumeri humanae navitatis campi suae dignitatis gradum sumere possunt ac 
debent” A.A.S. of January 31, 1966, p. 53. 


22 S 

tive of the common work accomplished by the Church, which ulti- 
mately flows back on the individual person, and the second is made in 
the perspective of the highest act of which the individual person is 
capable, and which ultimately flows back on the Church. 

The fact remains that in the equal pre-eminence of the common 
work accomplished by the Body and its Head, and of the act by which 
the contemplative becomes one with his God, the liturgy retains an 
inalienable privilege: in the Mass heaven comes down to earth; Jesus, 
at the words of the priest, is suddenly there, under veils, to perpetu- 
ate mysteriously his unique Sacrifice, and his presence among us in 
the Holy Sacrament. But contemplation also retains an inalienable 
privilege: in contemplation a man who is a self , a universe to him- 
self, is united to Jesus in a union of person to Person, a union of love, 
and he joins in the night of faith the End for which he himself and all 
the universe were created. In contemplation heaven begins on earth 
(for contemplation will continue in heaven, whereas the Mass will 
not). The mystical Body is composed of human persons each of 
whom was made for this purpose of seeing God in eternity, and being 
united with him through love on earth, and for each of whom Christ 
gave his life in his supreme act of love. He gave it for the entire 
Church and for all the People of God, but that was possible only by 
giving it for each one as if he were alone in the world. And it is the 
duty of each, to the extent that he knows what God did for him, to 
answer such love by a total gift of himself in love. 

“The love of God is always from Person to person, and our love for 
God is always from our heart to His heart, which has loved us first, in 
our very singularity/' 97 “As a member of a Body whose common 
good is identical with the ultimate good itself of each person/' each 
is helped by this Body to love God, but “each one is alone before 
God to love him, to contemplate him here below and to see him in 
heaven, as also to be judged by Him— each one according to his 
love." 88 


From that one understands a bit better the importance of the 
Psalmist's injunction: “Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46. 

97 Liturgy and Contemplation, pp. 83-8^. 

98 Ibid., p. 83. 



[45]). “Taste and see how much the Lord is good!” ( Ps . 34 [33]). 
And one understands a bit better why the saints have never tired of 
asserting that wordless prayer (which of itself tends to contempla- 
tion) is a normally necessary way of approach for anyone who has a 
firm resolve to advance toward the perfection of charity. That is what 
the Constitution on the Liturgy reminds us: “The Christian is indeed 
called to prav with his brethren, but he must also enter into his cham- 
ber to pray to the Father in secret; yet more, according to the teach- 
ing of the apostle, he should pray without ceasing.” 99 This was the 
teaching of St. Irenaeus in the second century, St. Ambrose and St. 
Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries, Cassian in the fifth, and 
then St. Gregory the Great, St. John Climaque, St. Bernard, St 
Hildegarde, St. Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas 
(he tells us that contemplation “aims directly and immediately at the 
love of God himself” and that it “is not directed to whatever a kind 
of love of God, but to perfect love”), 100 St. Gertrude, St. Catherine 
of Sienna, and later, in an age when a strong ’impulse toward self-re- 
flection had its drawbacks but of itself, like every prise de conscience, 
marked an undeniable progress, St. Teresa of Avila (“there is only one 
road that leads to God, and that is orchson”) and St. John of the 
Cross (the same saint who said “in the evening of this life you will 
be judged on love,” said also: “contemplative prayer must take prece- 
dence over all other occupations, it is the strength of the soul”); and 
after them, the great Jesuit spirituals, Lallemant, Surin, Grou, Caus- 
sade, and then St. Therese of Lisieux. 

Pere Lallemant wrote: “Without contemplation we will never ad- 
vance far toward virtue ... we will never break free of our weak- 
nesses and our imperfections. We will always be attached to the 
earth, and will never raise ourselves much above the sentiments of na- 
ture. We will never be able to offer a perfect service to God. But with 
contemplation we will do more in a month, for ourselves and for 
others, than we would have been able to do without it in ten years. It 
produces . . . acts of sublime love of God such as one can hardly 
ever accomplish without this gift . . . , and finally, it perfects faith 
and all the virtues. . . .” 101 

99 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Par. 12. 

100 Sum. theol. , II— II, 182, 2; 182, 2, ad 1. 

101 La Doctrine Spirituelle , pp. 429-430. 


This whole long tradition remained faithful to the teaching of St. 
Paul, for whom, as Father Lebreton wrote, charity, which “when we 
die will flower into eternal life/' is “the means and the end of contem- 
plation/’ 102 

And there is one greater than St. Paul. Christ himself, as St. Bona- 
venture repeats again and again, promises to those who love him this 
experience of things divine when he says, in St. John: “He who loves 
me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest my- 
self to him” ( John 14:21). And it is he who tells us: “When you 
pray, go into your room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father 
in secret; and your Father who sees in the secret will reward you” 
(Matt. 6:6). Clauso ostio! It is the door of the room and it is the 
door of the soul. And it is also He who is the Door ( John 10:9), and 
who encloses us in him when we are recollected in oraison. 

And it is Christ who said: “You must pray constantly” (Luke 18:1). 
Sine intermissione orate “pray ceaselessly” (1 Thess. 5:17), St. Paul 
will say, following his master. The Church applies this precept in her 
liturgy. But it is addressed to all; and this is not impossible. 

How can one manage to pray constantly? By repeating a short for- 
mula so unremittingly that it becomes rooted in the soul? This is the 
means that Christians of the Eastern Churches have employed for 
centuries with the “Jesus prayer” (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, 
have pity on me a sinner) repeated incessantly. Such a method— in 
which, in the last analysis, a sort of psychological technique utilizes a 
practice (“ejaculatory prayer”) that is holy in itself (when it springs 
from the heart)— might in the course of time result in a habit no 
doubt rooted in the soul, but one in which a verbal formula made in- 
cessantly present by a natural automatism plays much more of a part 
than does that vital (and supematurally vital) act that is prayer. 

The true answer is to be sought in this vital act itself. With a St. 
Theresa when she was busy with her foundations or a St. Vincent de 
Paul when be was busy with his poor, it went on virtually , always 
ready to spring up, by very reason of the profundity and intensity 
with which it filled their souls in the hours of meditation reserved for 
wordless prayer. 

And this true answer is, no doubt, given us iu the most decisive 

102 Dtct. (k Sperititalitd, col. 1715 and 1711. 



fashion by what Father Osende, in a remarkable page of his book 
Contemplata , 103 calls Voraison du coeur , "the prayer of the heart/' It 
is, I think, through this sort of prayer or contemplation, so silent and 
so rooted in the depths of the spirit that he describes it as "uncon- 
scious," that we can best and most truly put into practice the precept 
to pray constantly . 104 And was it not to it that St. Anthony the Her- 
mit alluded when he said that "there is no perfect prayer if the re- 
ligious is himself aware that he is praying?" 105 

The prayer that Father Osende calls the prayer of the heart and that 
he describes as unconscious (it pertains to that "supra-conscious of 
the spirit” of which I have said a great deal elsewhere) can and must, 
he says, be continuous in the contemplative soul. "For we cannot 
fix our mind on two objects at the same time nor continue to think 
always, whereas we can love always” (at least in the supra-conscious 
of the spirit— only there, in effect, can love be in act continuously). 
We are then no longer dealing simply with the vital impulse of prayer 
always present virtually in consciousness; the prayer of the heart itself 
remains in act— in the supra-conscious of the spirit. It is an unformu- 
lated act of love that can be constantly present, like that of a mother 
—an example dear to Bergson— who while she sleeps, still watches 
over the infant in the cradle. "Who does not see that this is possible, 
and very possible? Do we not see that, even in the natural order, 
when the heart is dominated by a great love, no matter what the per- 
son does, his entire soul and life are on what he loves and not on 

103 Translated into English under the title Fruits of Contemplation (St. Louis, 
Mo.: Herder, 1953). I would like to point out here that the pages in Liturgy and 
Contemplation that deal with the prayer of the heart and with Father Osende 
stand in need of correction. In writing these pages I inadvertently spoke (probably 
because of the “unconscious” character of this prayer) of “atypical” or “masked” 
contemplation, which we will discuss later. This was a serious error. The prayer of 
the heart springs from the supra-conscious of the spirit, but it is not at all 
“masked” contemplation; it is a typical form of contemplation, and one of the 
most precious. 

104 The idea of perpetual or uninterrupted prayer which is carried on even in 
sleep by a mental activity inaccessible to the consciousness, plays a central role with 
Cassian. (Cf. Diet, de Spirituality , art. Contemplation, col. 1924 and 1926.) 
P£re Grou in the eighteenth century also notes ( Manuel , p. 224 ff.) that uninter- 
rupted prayer is a prayer that escapes the consciousness. Cf. Arintero, The Mystical 
Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church (St. Louis, Mo.: Herder, 

1950, P-45- 

105 “]s Jon est perfecta oratio in qua se monachus vel hoc ipsum quod orat 
inteUigit. ,f Cassian, IX, 31. 



what he does, though he may apply to his work all his attention? If 
natural love does this, how much more should divine love. . . 106 

He who has reached the stage of the prayer of the heart, therefore, 
fulfills in the best way possible the precept to pray constantly . 


- <" 

It is with contemplation considered in itself and in its typical traits, 
in other words, with those who are wholly dedicated to contempla- 
tion, that the previous considerations dealt. Here we must note that 
serious errors are possible if we misread the doctrine of the saints, I 
mean if we understand it in the manner of a “univocal” assertion, a 
mathematical proposition or an article of law, without taking into ac- 
count the freedom, the breadth and the variety of the ways of God. 

The word “contemplation” makes many people afraid, and I have 
noted earlier that, like every human word that designates exalted 
things, it is not without risk of deceiving honest readers. In addition, 
the very sublimity of those who teach us about it is enough to 
frighten one. To advance as one must toward God, is it prescribed to 
me, a businessman or a factory worker, or a doctor overwhelmed by 
his practice, or a family father bent under his burden— to talk with 
God like St. Gertrude or St. Catherine of Sienna, and to aspire to the 
transforming union and the spiritual marriage like St. Teresa and St. 
John of the Cross? Not really; that is not what is involved. 

Contemplation is a winged and supernatural thing, free with the 
freedom of the Spirit of God, more burning than the African sun and 
more refreshing than the waters of a rushing stream, lighter than 
birds' down, unseizable, escaping any human measure and discon- 
certing every human notion, happy to depose the mighty and exalt 
the lowly, capable of all disguises, of all daring and all timidity, chaste, 
fearless, luminous and nocturnal, sweeter than honey and more bar- 
ren than rock, crucifying and beatifying (crucifying above all), and 
sometimes all the more exalted the less conspicuous it is. 

When the theologians, after having shown us the sublimity of the 
goal and having a little frightened us with it, speak to us of the call of 
all to contemplation, they soften their language, but not less energet- 

1W V. OscxkJc, FmHs of Coitiempl&tion, pp. 1 57-1 59. 


ically. They explain that this call (it is a call, not a precept, because 
; contemplation, with respect to the only End, which is the perfection 
of love— and in the same way, participation in the liturgy— are only 
means, as normally necessary as they are), they explain to us that 
this call is similar to another call (this one a precept)— the call to the 
perfection of love. It is, at first, a “distant” call which some day per- 
haps will become “immediate.” 107 And it is the distant call that is 
addressed to all; and in order not to be in fault at this point it is 
enough only to set out, even without knowing it . 108 

But what is still more important, it seems to me, what it is, first of 
all, important to observe, is that the response to the immediate call, 
or, in other words, the entry into the path of contemplation, coin- 
cides with something of a much more profound and much more hid- 
den order, which may be called the entry into the life of the spirit: I 
mean that it takes place at the end of a transitional phase during 
which— in a manner inaccessible to consciousness (in the depths of 
the supra-conscious of the spirit)— the soul has been gradually intro- 
duced to a new regime of life; then, once arrived at this new stage of 
its spiritual progress, the soul no longer receives only from time to 
time, in order to extricate itself from some exceptional difficulty or 

107 St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas each, in conformity with the tradition of 
the saints, that all souls are called in a distant way to contemplation, considered 
as the normal flowering of the grace of the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

. The immediate call “exists only when the presence of the three signs mentioned by 
St. John of the Cross, and before him by Tauler, is ascertained: first, meditation 
becomes unfeasible; second, the soul has no desire to fix the imagination on any 
particular object, interior or exterior; third, the soul is pleased to find itself alone 
with God, fixing its affectionate attention on him/' R. P. Garrigou-Lagrange, 
Perfection chrdtienne et Contemplation , II, pp. 421-422. 

108 “One does not sin against the precept/' writes St. Thomas with respect to 
the precept concerning the perfection of charity, “simply because one does not 
accomplish it in the best manner; it suffices, in order that the precept not be 
transgressed, that it be accomplished in one way or another" (Sum. theol. y II— II, 
184, 3, ad 2). And Cajetan comments: “The perfection of charity is commanded 
as an end, one must will to attain the end, the whole end; but precisely because 
it is an end, to obey the precept it is enough to be in a state of someday reaching 
this perfection, even if only in heaven. Whoever possesses charity, even to the 
most tenuous degree, and advances thus toward heaven, is on the way to perfect 
charity, and thereby avoids transgression of the precept." 

Similarly, we are not deaf to the call of contemplation if we do not answer it 
in the best manner. Whoever has within him, even to the feeblest degree, the will 
to pray to God, whether by mumbling paternosters or by crying out to God, is 
without knowing it on the way to contemplation. 


2 3 x 

| some temptation, the help of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which are 
necessary to salvation, as I recalled above). When the soul has arrived 
at this new stage, when it has crossed this threshold, it begins to be 
habitually aided by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that is what the 
theologians call entering under the habitual regime of these gifts. 

Now the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the enumeration of which Catholic 
theology takes from Isaiah , 109 have different objects. Certain, like the 

I gifts of Counsel, Fortitude, FSar of the Lord, and Piety, are related 
above all to action; the others, like the gifts of Wisdom, Understand- 
ing and Knowledge, are related above all to contemplation. 

From this it follows that there are very diverse ways and extremely 
different styles in which souls who have set out on the path of the 
spirit can advance along it. In some it is the highest gifts, the gifts 
of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge, which are at work in an 
eminent way— these souls represent the mysterious life of the spirit in 
its normal plentitude; and they will have the grace of contemplation 
in its typical forms, whether arid or consoling. In the others, it is the 
other gifts which are at work above all— they will live the life of the 
spirit but above all with respect to their activities and their works, and 
they will not have the typical and normal forms of contemplation. 

“It is not, however, that they are deprived of contemplation, of the 
loving experience of things divine; for according to the teaching of St. 
Thomas, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are linked to one another ; 110 

1 they cannot, therefore, exist in the soul without the gift of Wisdom, 
which, in the case we are discussing, is at work, though in a less ap- 
parent way. These souls whose style of life is an active one will have 
the grace of contemplation, but of a masked , not apparent contempla- 
tion. Perhaps they will only be able to recite rosaries, and wordless 
oraison will give them a headache or make them sleepy. Mysterious 
contemplation will not be in their conscious prayer, but perhaps in 
the glance with which they will look at a poor man, or will look at 
suffering.” 111 

We can understand nothing about the things we are discussing at 
this moment if we do not carefully take into account these atypical, 

lt§ I*., 1 1 : 2. Cf. Sum. thcol., I~fl, 68, 4 to 8. 
theol. , I-II, 68, 

111 Action and Conte mpiat ion, in Questions de conscience (Paris, Descl6e Dc 
Brouwer, 1938), p. 146. 


diffused or disguised forms of contemplation. If I put this much em- 
phasis on them, it is because I am a bit hopeful, after all these ex- 
planations, that a reader, even one trained by the clergy of today, will 
be less scandalized by the idea that contemplation (open or masked) 
lies in the normal path of Christian perfection. But I also think that, 
all things considered (it is only a question of vocabulary, and in order 
to spare the “modern mentality” misunderstandings for which it has, 
moreover, a singular avidity), it would perhaps be better— instead of 
saying “the call of all the baptized to contemplation”— -to say, what is 
the same thing, “the call of all the baptized to the loving experience 
of the things of God.” 

Be that as it may, if the call is addressed to all, we must recognize 
also that in fact, given our dear nature, so dear to our Christians re- 
newed by Evolution, and given the general conditions of human life, 
those among the baptized who answer the call in question, but badly, 
like idlers and laggards, and who soon sit down at the edge of the 
road, will always be the most numerous. It is a pity, but it is true. And 
this fact shows how important a part, for the life of the kingdom of 
God in pilgrimage here below, is played by these (not so rare, how- 
ever, as one might think) who have crossed the threshold of which I 
spoke above, and who make up for the great deficiency as to the com- 
mon good of the Church— and the cruel privation each of the laggards 
inflicts on himself— which the mysterious patience of Jesus tolerates 
in the greater part of his flock. 


I shall still be speaking here, and at some length, of things that re- 
fer to the inner life and the search for the perfection of charity. Is 
this to forget that The Peasant of the Garonne is written by “an old 
layman who questions himself about the present time”? Certainly 
not— I am not forgetting my subtitle; and my reflections always con- 
cern— and more so than ever— our times. For if our age scarcely thinks 
of these things (has there ever been an age in history that has thought 
a great deal about them?), there is still— precisely because it feeds on 
a heap of flattering illusions— nothing of which it stands in greater 
need than attention to these things by a certain number of human 


2 33 

beings: a relatively small number, no doubt, but which certainly 
could, and should be much larger. To tell the truth, it is in having this 
small number in mind that this whole book was written, I mean in 
order to offer known or unknown friends an opportunity to heave for 
a moment a sigh of relief (it is always a pleasure to hear some im- 
prudent talker stammer out truths which are not welcome) . 

As far as this last section is concerned, the fact is that it is hardly 
mine. It is more Ra’issa^ than Thine. My task was above all to weave 
together in an order that seemed appropriate to my sketch many 
texts written by her and that stand on their own, because a breath 
passes in them of an experience of that deep Christian life whose mys- 
tery they enlighten for us a little. 


La contemplation sur les chemins — contemplation on the roads — 
that is the title of a book that RaTssa wanted to write (our friends had 
encouraged her to do so), and which in her mind was addressed to 
those— much less rare than one thinks— who, while living what we 
call the ordinary life of the good Christian in the world (family duties 
and vocational duties, Mass on Sundays, cooperation in some apos- 
tolic work, the desire to help one's neighbor as much as possible, and 
a few moments of vocal prayer at home), are ready to go further, and 
whose hearts are burning to go further, but who find themselves 
prevented by many fears and obstacles, more or less illusory — or some- 
times dissuaded by the very persons who have the charge of guiding 

I have a notion that the widespread infatuation that today pre- 
vails for action, technique, organization, inquiries, committees, mass 
movements, and the new possibilities that sociology and psychology 
are discovering— all things that are far from being contemptible, 
but which, if one confided only in them, would lead to a strange 
naturalism in the service (so one hopes) of the supernatural- will 
some day give rise to a great deal of strong disappointments. 

In order to make the teachings of the Council pass into their lives, 
were not Christian people going to try first of all to be attentive to 
the wishes of that Spirit, without whose assistance “there is nothing 
innocent in man"? Such a wish would be a little too much oblivious 


of the historical conditioning to which the world is subject. In any 
case, the fact remains that at this moment many souls are dying of 
thirst, and receive hardly any help except from the few hidden but 
nevertheless radiant centers that, in consecrated or lay persons, con- 
templation has reserved for itself on this poor earth, and through 
which the Spirit of God comes to touch them. As I have previously 
noted, the titanism of human effort is the great idol of our times. And 
consequently it is clear that an invisible galaxy of souls dedicated to 
the contemplative life— in the world itself, I mean, in the very heart 
of the world— is our ultimate reason for hoping. 

Unlike souls dedicated to action, who, if they advance in the ways 
of God as is demanded of them, partake in the “masked” contempla- 
tion I discussed earlier, the souls I am now referring to partake in 
“open” contemplation. But their path is a very humble one; it de- 
mands nothing but charity and humility, and contemplative prayer 
without apparent graces. This is the path of simple people, it is the 
“little way” (La petite voie) that St. Therese of Lisieux was in charge 
of teaching us: a kind of short-cut— singularly abrupt, to tell the 
truth— where all the great things described by St. John of the Cross 
can be found divinely simplified and reduced to the pure essentials, 
but without losing any of their exigence. 

The soul is laid bare, and its very love-prayer as well— so arid at 
times that it seems to fly into distractions and emptiness. It is a path 
that demands great courage. Complete surrender to Him whom we 
love accepts every burden, will make the soul pass through all the 
stages willed by Jesus (and known only to Him), and will lead there 
where Jesus wills, in light or in darkness. Only in His heart do such 
beings wish to have their shelter; and by the same token they also 
wish their own hearts to be a shelter for the neighbor. 


Rai'ssa said a few words on the subject she wanted to treat, in a 
short chapter in Liturgy and Contemplation , several passages of which 
I will reproduce here. 

“Indeed contemplation is not given only to the Carthusians, the 
Poor Clares, the Carmelites. ... It is frequently the treasure of 


2 35 

persons hidden to the world-known only to some few — to their di- 
rectors, to a few friends. Sometimes, in a certain manner, this treas- 
ure is hidden from the souls themselves that possess it— souls who 
live by it in all simplicity, without visions, without miracles, but with 
such a flame of love for God and neighbor that good spreads all 
around them without noise and without agitation. 

"It is of this that our age has to become aware, and of the ways 
through which contqmplation communicates itself through the world, 
under one form or the other, to the great multitude of souls who 
thirst for it (often without knowing it) and who are called to it at 
least in a remote manner. The great need of our age, in what con- 
cerns the spiritual life, is to put contemplation on the roads. 

"It is fitting to note here the importance of the witness and mission 
of Saint Therese of Lisieux. ... It is a great way indeed— and a 
heroic one— this petite voie of Therese’s, which hides rigorously its 
greatness under an absolute simplicity, itself heroic. And this absolute 
simplicity makes of it a way par excellence open to all those who as- 
pire to perfection, whatever their condition of life may be. This is 
the feature here that it is particularly important for us to keep in 

"Saint Therese of Lisieux has shown that the soul can tend to the 
perfection of charity by a way in which the great signs that Saint 
John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila have described do not 
appear. ... By the same token, I believe, Saint Therese in her Car- 
mel prepared in an eminent way that diffusion wider than ever, of 
the life of union with God which the world requires if it is not to 

"Let us add that in this contemplation on the roads whose develop- 
ment the future will doubtless see, it seems that constant attention to 
the presence of Jesus and fraternal charity are called to play a major 
role, as regards even the way of infused contemplative prayer.” 112 

A constant attention to the presence of Jesus; and fraternal char- 
ity: it matters especially that we turn our attention to these two main 
characteristics of contemplation on the roads. On the subject of the 
first, a note from the Journal de Ra'issa gives us more detailed infor- 

112 Liturgy and Contemplation , pp. 74-76. 


“Certain spiritual writers think that the highest contemplation, 
being free of all the images of this world, is that which does without 
images altogether, even that of Jesus, and into which, consequently, 
the Humanity of Christ does not enter. 

“That is a profound error, and the problem disappears as soon as 
one has grasped how truly and how deeply the Word has assumed hu- 
man nature, in such a way that everything which is of this nature, 
suffering, pity, compassion, hope . . . , all these things have be- 
come, so to speak, attributes of God. In contemplating them, it is 
therefore attributes of God which are contemplated. Since apart and 
below the divine perfections the Word Incarnate possesses human 
qualities which are God's — they are the objects of a contemplation 
that is just as spiritual, although it includes images. 

“And the soul must not be afraid of passing through the human 
states and the human pity of Jesus, and of making requests of Him 
and of praying for the cure of a sick person, for example— all these 
things being participations in the desires and the compassion of 
Christ, which belonged to the divine Person itself.” 113 

I find in some lines of Pere Marie-Joseph Nicolas a remarkable con- 
firmation of these views. In Jesus, writes Pere Nicolas, “man finds God 
himself.” The humanity assumed by the Word has no separate con- 
sistency and existence which would make of it a creature between the 
world and God. To lore the Man Jesus , to unite oneself to the Man 
Jesus , is to lore God." 114 

What shall I say on the second characteristic of contemplation on 
the roads pointed out by Ra’fssa? If fraternal charity is called to play a 
major role in this contemplation, it seems to me that it is to the ex- 
tent that love-prayer can and must be pursued in those very relations 
with men in which those who live in the world are constantly in- 
volved. Then, in looking at our brothers and listening to them, in 
being attentive to their problems and having compassion for their 
afflictions, we will not only strive to love them as Jesus loves them; 
at the same time a more secret grace will be given to us. If we give 
them all the attention we can from our own hearts, that is not much, 
to tell the truth; but what counts much more, for us and for our 

Journal de Ra’issa , op. cit ., pp. 361-362. 

114 Revue Thomiste, 1947-I, pp. 41-42. 


2 37 








brothers, is the fact that at the same time Jesus' love for them, which 
gives them His very heart, is drawing to Him the gaze of our soul and 
the depths of our heart. P£re Voillaume told me once that that was 
truly seeing Jesus in them ; and M&re Madeleine, of Cr6pieux— in a 
more developed formula, to which I would like to stick— that it came 
to penetrate , in looking at our brothers and loving them , a little of the 
very mystery of Jesus himself and His love for each of us. “For," she 
added, “since there is only, one -commandment, the constant love of 
our brothers, love to the point of wearing oneself out for them, is the 
fulfillment in act of the love of God and union with Jesus; and it is 
love that makes contemplation grow, deepen itself, exult." 

To see Jesus in our brothers is an abridged formula, and one which 
could be misunderstood. Did not, however, Jesus make himself one 
with them, did he not make all their sorrows his own? “I was hungry 
and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a 
stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I 
was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and yon came to me" 
(Matt. 25:35). That is true, but the fact remains that our brothers 
are mere creatures, confronting our eyes, and not (to us who have not 
had the chance to see Him with our eyes) God before the gaze of our 
soul, as is Jesus when we contemplate him in his very humanity. It is 
not exactly in them , it is rather through them and behind them that 
we see Jesus and his love for them. And by the same token, it is in 
arrear of our attention to others, and of our exchanges with them, in 
arrear of the noise they make and we make, it is in an inner silence 
in which the spiritual preconscious much more than the conscious is 
absorbed, that our soul is attracted to Jesus who is there, and to his 
love for our brothers, who are his brothers. And this inner silence in 
us— which the man who speaks to us perceives also in a manner much 
more unconscious than conscious— is no doubt the best part of what 
he receives from our so much disarmed fraternal charity. 

To contemplate, alone with Him alone, God in the humanity of 
Jesus; and to contemplate Jesus through our neighbor, whom he 
loves and whom we love— these are the two most highly desirable 
paths of contemplation for a man engaged in the labors of the world. 
But neither is easy for him. 

In the first kind of contemplating, which in itself is always required 


(it is commanded by the Lord), one is constantly exposed to diffi- 
culties created by lack of time; notwithstanding, we must do every- 
thing possible to persevere in this path. 

That is not the problem one has to complain about with the 
second path; the time available for it would be rather too largely of- 
fered. And this path also permits a very pure oraison , from which all 
danger of formulas, notions, routines, even the danger of falling 
asleep, have been swept away. It is in the poor human clay that we 
learn then to know Jesus and many of his secrets. But it is an arid 
love-prayer, almost too pure for our feeble heart, because, being much 
more unconscious than conscious, it comes about in the tiredness of 
our members and of our conscious faculties, rather than in the repose 
where we can taste “how sweet the Lord is.” 

To rediscover this repose we must return to prayer clauso ostio , 
where we are alone with Jesus. 


The lack of time to which I just alluded is the practical problem 
that makes many laymen attracted to contemplative prayer hesitate, 
and from which suffer most all those who dedicate themselves to 
prayer in the world. Without speaking of the “second path” of which 
I just spoke, there are many particular answers, infinitely variable 
according to the case of each one. (One can faire oraison in the train, 
in the subway, in the dentist's waiting room. One can also have 
frequent recourse to those short prayers flung out like a cry, which 
the ancients recommended so highly.) 115 There is no definitive an- 
swer except that which Dom Florent Mi£ge once gave: You must 
love your chains. The material obstacles encountered at each mo- 
ment by one who lives the life of prayer in the world are an integral 

115 Cf. Mrs. Etta Gullik’s excellent article, “Les courtes prices,” in La Vie 
Spirituelle , February 1966 (original English in The Clergy Review). The author 
recalls that St. Francis of Assisi passed an entire night repeating “My God and my 
All.” “Jesus asked us to pray without ceasing. But how can this be done in the 
bustle of the modem world, when so many people complain that they lack the 
time to pray regularly every day? Do ejaculations not offer a solution? They are as 
valid for the Christian who is educated as for one who is not. . . . The desert 
Fathers made use of this kind of prayer at every moment . . . Cassian recom- 
mended the recitation of the first words of Psalm 70(69) : 'Oh God, come quickly 
to my aid, Lord, make haste to help me/ ” 


2 39 










part of this life, and make up the unavoidably sorrowful side of it. "I 
have the feeling that what is asked of us is to live in the storm of life, 
without keeping back any of our substance, without keeping back 
anything for ourselves, neither rest nor friendships nor health nor 
leisure— to pray incessantly and that even without leisure— in fact to 
let ourselves pitch and toss in the waves of the divine will till the day 
when it will say: ‘It is enough/ ” 11S 

The fact remains that the Lcrrd told us to pray in the secrecy of our 
chamber, and that we should be bent on doing so as often as possible. 
In the present state of our civilization women are reduced to slavery 
by the absence of human help in domestic life; a mother of a family 
has to do everything by herself in her house, and the more mechanical 
gadgets she has at her disposal the more she is a slave. Men, too (a 
little less enslaved), are enchained to their work and most often worn 
out by the worries of daily breadwinning. In spite of everything, I do 
not think that it is impossible, since one still finds quite a bit of 
time for chit-chat or television, to give every day a little time, how - 
ever little it might be, to praying in private, door closed. 

That is the only more or less fixed rule, it seems to me, in a state of 
life that does not admit of fixed rules. And when one has absolutely no 
time for contemplative prayer, there always remains the desire of the 
heart, and that benignity of divine manners of which we spoke 
earlier: “If it happens that someone cannot weep, a single word from 
a contrite heart is enough for God. And if someone would lose the 
use of his tongue, God would be well pleased with the moaning of 
his heart/’ 117 


On the roads of the world we do not encounter only the afflictions 
of the world, we know also its beauty; we see it “shining from its 
numberless stars/' At every moment we have to deal with the foolish 
ways of oux nature and of our natural love for creatures; at every 
moment we also have to deal with the grandeur and dignity of our 
nature, as well as with the sweetness and nobility of our natural love 
for creatures. 

110 Journal de Rdfs§a y op. cat., p. 212. 

D« Mocurt divines, tract attributed tn St. Tboitoas Aquinas (trans. by 
Ralssa Maritain, Paris, Libr. de l’Art Catholique, 1921). 



One is not more subject to temptation in the world than in the 
desert. One is there, however, less well-armed against temptation than 
in the desert or the cloister. This is the misfortune of life in the 
world. But in compensation, one is in a better position not to 
slander nature , 118 that nature which God had made, to recognize still 
its grandeur and its dignity even in the midst of temptation , 119 to 
understand that it is never evil as such that tempts us, it is always 
some “ontological” good — often even morally innocent and some- 
times noble in itself— but one that God's law and his love command 
us to refuse, because to attain it by such given means or under such 
given circumstances we would have to violate the order of things. 

Moreover, it is of course true that grace perfects nature and does 
not destroy it, but this means in effect that grace perfects nature by 
going beyond it, and transforms it (according to the law of all trans- 
formation) by making it give up that which, in its own order, and 
not without reason, it holds most dear. 

Let us go 

For the sake of God , beauty itself must be forsaken 

He holds in His hand the starry universe . 120 

“Sacrifice is an absolutely universal law for the perfecting of the 
creature. Everything which passes from a lower nature to a higher 
nature has to pass through self-sacrifice, mortification and death. 

118 I should have put this sentence in the past tense. Who slanders nature 
today? Certainly not study gatherings held by members of religious orders. Every- 
one venerates it; but they do so foolishly, I mean insofar only as nature is mirrored 
in man's science and the uses he puts it to. Nature is more chaste and more 
mysterious than we think. When it comes to looking at it and respecting it truly, 
there are only the poet, the contemplative, and painters like the Chinese, or 
Breughel or Jean Hugo. If we venerate it so stupidly today, it is undoubtedly because 
our ancestors slandered it stupidly over too long a period of time, in misreading 
great ascetic writers. The fact remains that, when a conceited naturalism spreads 
in consecrated circles, it is there that it shows itself the funniest and the most 

119 “Nature laments, she pleads her cause with prodigious eloquence, with a 
terrible power of seduction. She is not rebellious, she is not perverse. She is herself. 
And being able to desire only life, she has to consent to death. . . Journal de 
Raissa , op. cit. r p. 51. 

120 Raissa, Douceur du monde (in Lettre de Nuit). From the translation of 
Raissa's thirty Poems by a Benedictine of Stanbrook, Worcester, Stanbrook Abbey 
Press, 1965. 


M 1 




The mineral assimilated by the plant becomes living matter. The 
vegetable which is consumed is transformed in the animal into 
sensible living matter. The man who yields up his whole soul to God 
through the obedience of faith, finds it again in glory. The angel 
who has renounced the natural light of his intelligence to plunge 
himself in the darkness of faith, has found the splendor of divine 
light. . . ” 121 

A soul given to lo\ae-prayer i*n the world, and within its beauty, is 
thus in a better position to acquire some understanding— at great 
price— of the very mystery of temptation (which can stir up in us a 
great deal of human filth, but does not in itself involve any sin, as 
long as we do not yield to it). I mean that the contemplative in the 
world is in a better position to have a presentiment that what temp- 
tation aims at operating in us is not so much a destruction as a trans- 
figuration, less an annihilation of something in us than a transference 
—through death— to a higher life, where it becomes worthy to be 
offered to God and to unite with him. 

i When I have vanquished you , O my life , O my death, 

► When I am free of the hard pull of joy 

i And have gained my heavenly liberty, 

| When I have chosen the hardest way, 

L My heart will rest in the balance of grace, 

* But I shall retain you, love, 

Retain from you not death, but life, 

And I shall discover you , happiness, 

Having given my Lord the whole of myself. 

Like a prosperous ship, her cargo intact, 

Which safe into harbour comes again , 

I shall sail to heaven with transfigured heart, 

Bearing human gifts made free from stain. 12 * 

I would like to quote here some passages from the Journal de 
Ra'issa which express what I would like to say better than I could do: 
“In the heart of the strong man temptation caa acquire a degree of 
acuteness all the greater because God, who assists at the conflict in 

181 Journal de Rditrn, op. cit., p. 55. 

182 “Transfiguration,” in R. M., Lettre de Nuit, op. cit., p. 80-81. 

2 4 2 


the soul of the just (or of whoever desires to become so), knows 
that he will triumph in it by His grace. The human heart is then 
probed in all its depth. . . . The richness, the complexity of nature 
is somewhat dazzling. And yet the man tempted to this point, who 
resists, strong in faith, marvels at a still greater wonder. He soars above 
all this magnificent and shattered nature by the impetus of his 
spirit / 7 125 

“God wants us to offer him, from every thing and every affection, 
whatever there is in them of being and of beauty. 

“He does not want dead offerings. He wants offerings that are pure 
and full of life. But, of course, where purification has taken place, 
something has had to die. And what remains is transformed, trans- 
figured. Affection has entered into the order of charity. 

“What must be removed from human love— to render it pure, 
beneficent, universal and divine— is not love itself. No, what must be 
suppressed or rather surpassed, are the limits of the heart. Hence the 
suffering— in this effort to go beyond our narrow limits. For in these 
limits, in our limits, is our human joy. 

“But we have to go beyond these limits of the heart; we have, 
under the action of grace and through the travail of the soul, to leave 
our bounded heart for the boundless heart of God. This is truly dying 
to ourselves. It is only when one has accepted this death that one 
enters, resurrected, into the boundless heart of God, with all that one 
loves, all the spoils of love, giving oneself up as prey to the infinite 

“Death to ourselves makes free room for the love of God. But at 
the same time it makes free room for the love of creatures according 
to the order of divine charity. 

“Tread one's heart oneself in the winepress. Lay one's heart on the 
Cross." 124 

“All love must be transformed into Love as grapes are transformed 
into wine — under the press." 125 

God does not want dead offerings . We must bring him offerings 
human and without stain. We must go beyond the limits of the heart . 

123 Journal de Ra’issa, op. cit., p. 6i. 

124 Ibid., p. 22i. 

126 Ibid., p. 220. 


2 43 

We must transform all love into Love. All that, the one who prays 
in the world is, I believe, in a better position to understand a little 
than the one who prays cut off from the world. 


“The Church is all mingled with sin"; we were told that earlier. 126 
In another way that is true also for those who devote themselves to 
love-prayer on the roads of this world, no doubt truer for them than 
for the cloistered. And it is a privilege for their life of prayer. For sin 
is indeed a great mystery, and it is fitting that those who pray draw a 
little closer to this mystery “In the very sin of the creature subsists a 
mystery which is sacred to us; this wound, at least, belongs to him; it 
is a pitiable good for which he pawns his eternal life, and in whose 
folds are hidden the justice and compassion of God. To heal this 
wound Christ willed to die. In order to see as deeply as he does into 
the sinful soul, one would have to love it with as much tenderness 
and purity." 127 

When we meet a sinner we should be seized with great respect, as 
in the presence of one condemned to death— who can live again, and 
have in paradise, close to Jesus, a higher place than we. 

As I write these lines I have before me the memento of Jacques 
Fesch, “born on Passion Sunday, April 6, 1930, condemned to death 
April 6, 1957, on the eve of Passion Sunday, executed at dawn, Oc- 
tober 1, 1957/' He had come back to God in his prison. In his last 
letters we find the following: “The nails in my hands are real, and the 
nails accepted. I understand better all the purity of Christ contrasted 
with my abjection. Since I accept wholeheartedly the will of the 
Father, I am receiving joy after joy" (August 16). “The execution will 
take place tomorrow morning, about four o'clock in the morning; 
may the will of God be done in all things . . . Jesus is very near to 
me. He draws me closer and closer to him, and I can only adore him 
in silence, wishing to die of love. ... I await love! In five hours I 
will see Jesus! He draws me gently to him, giving me that peace which 
is not of this world. ..." A little later he observes: “Peace has left 
me and given place to anguish, my heart is bursting in my breast. 

126 Charles Journet, Theologie de VEglise. Cf. p 186. 

127 Frontieres de la Poesie, “Dialogues,” p. 115. 


Holy Virgin, have pity on me! . . ." And then: “I am calmer now 
than a moment ago, because Jesus promised me he will take me 
straight to Paradise, and that I will die as a Christian. ... I am 
happy, farewell/' (Night of September 30 to October 1, the sixtieth 
anniversary of the death of St. Therese of Lisieux.) 

The enigma of sin raises many questions in our minds, and first of 
all questions on the enigma of the human being in his relationship 
with God. “One can also say that there are two categories of men: 
those who— what mystery!— are capable of assimilating sin, and those 
who are not capable of doing so (by virtue of some mystery of pre- 
destination . . .). 

“Those who are capable of assimilating sin, of living with sin, al- 
most of living on it; of drawing from it a useful experience, a certain 
human enrichment, a development, even a perfecting, in the order of 
mercy and humility— of arriving, finally, at the knowledge of God, at 
a certain theodicy, through extreme experience of the misery of the 
sinner. The Russians are like this, as typified in Dostoievsky's charac- 
ters. What is rare about them is that they are conscious of this capac- 
ity to profit in the end from sin. The majority of sinners have 
this capacity too, without knowing it. 

“Those who are incapable of assimilating sin, because the smallest 
deliberate sin is like a fishbone stuck in their throat, cannot rest till 
they have got rid of it by contrition and confession. These are called 
to be assimilated to Christ. They can accept or refuse. It is a redoubt- 
able moment when they hear this call— it is the voice of Jesus him- 
self." 128 

Why should the smallest deliberate sin be to such souls like a fish- 
bone in the throat? Because they fear hell? Certainly not. Fear of 
damnation may invade them at certain moments of trial and extreme 
affliction, but it is certainly not the substance of their lives. The holy 
fear of God is a fear of offending him, always present because of his 
infinite transcendence; it is not a fear of him. Fear is a poor regime 
for the human soul. It is because so many men are still far from God 
that they have a fear entirely different from the holy fear of God, 
and which ravages them, a fear of the sanctions of his law— and of 
God himself. 

129 Journal de Raissa , op. cit. y pp. 226-227. 


2 45 

“If your right eye is an occasion of sin to you, pluck it out" (Matt. 
5:29). We were told this out of love, not out of a fear of being dis- 
obeyed which is proper to the rulers of the earth. And it is love that 
echoes the precept in us. The closer man comes to God, the more he 
understands his love and his mercy— did Jesus not come “for sinners, 
rather than for the just" (Matt. 9:13), did he not tell Peter to forgive 
seventy-seven times seven times? And the parable of the prodigal son, 
and Jesus at the table of Lpvi,j5on of Alphaeus, and at the table of 
Zacchaeus, and Jesus at Jacob's well confiding unheard secrets to the 
Samaritan woman, and Jesus before the adultress, and Jesus while 
Mary Magdalene kisses his feet and covers them with perfume? Has 
not God a passion to pardon? To such a point that he cannot help 
himself, as soon as anybody recognizes himself as a sinner? “If some- 
one speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; 
but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be 
forgiven" (Luke 12:10). Sin against the Holy Spirit is sin against 
Love and Mercy, which prevents us from asking God's pardon. “Her 
sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved 
much. The one to whom less is forgiven has a less great love." (Luke 

7 : 47) 

When they think of such words, are not the saints tempted to envy 
sinners, and that sort of truly mad trust, enormous to the point of 
breaking any norm, by which, in wounding God and in breaking his 
law, they still (without knowing it— though Dostoievsky's sinners 
have some suspicion of this) render homage to the infinity of his 
mercy? Does the obedient trust of the saints seem less abandoned 
(less “mad")? In reality it is more abandoned, because there is no 
fear in it except the fear of offending God; the fear of punishment 
for themselves, fear for their own skin, has been eclipsed; and their 
trust demands nothing less than the Infinite One, the Inaccessible 
One, the divine Life, the kiss of God; their trust is mad with love. 
Let them not be afraid of having a less great love because less has been 
forgiven them (they have asked pardon for all human weakness and 
all the sins of men, they have opened themselves more widely to the 
supreme gift and pardon that is grace). Whether they have known 
sin like Magdalene or Augustine, or always preserved the innocence 
of baptism like Thomas Aquinas or St. Louis de Gonzaga, is all the 
same— theirs is the greatest love. 


What is it, then, that is like a fishbone in the throat to men who 
are “incapable of assimilating sin”? It is not fear, it is love. They know 
what love is, and what sin is— it has crucified the God they love. They 
are drunk with love for God and for Jesus. Through this love they 
are riveted to Jesus, and to the desire to enter into his heart and into 
his work, and to carry with him that cross which saves the world. 

As to the sinners of Dostoievsky, what they have in their own 
right, it seems to me, is that, unlike others, they are, in sin— and even 
with I know not what complacency— attentive to the misery of sin, 
and have also within them, rooted in the irrational depths of the soul, 
an obscure awareness of that enormous and reckless trust of which I 
have just spoken, and on which they play their game— as long as 
despair and suicide do not come along. And they do not know what 
love is, because they are afraid of it. 


One cannot love Jesus without wanting to enter into his work. All 
those who are dedicated to contemplative prayer, whether in religious 
communities or on the roads of the world, know this equally well. I 
readily believe that in religious communities, because, there, one has 
left everything for God, there are more who put this knowledge into 
practice, sometimes heroically. But those who walk along the roads of 
the world, deprived of the help that consecrated people find in their 
rule and in their vows, are at least offered by their secular life, I think, 
a kind of compensation: that thing— the call to enter into Christ's 
work— which it matters essentially to know, they are constantly re- 
minded of it, because they live in the midst of sinners. 

To enter into the work of Jesus is to participate in the work of 
redemption that he accomplished fully by himself; it is to pursue 
with him and through him, as being one with him, a work of core- 
demption that will be fully accomplished only at the end of the 
world, and to which all Christians are called in one degree or another, 
and under one form or another. 

It was not by some gesture of royal amnesty, as He could so easily 
have done (a single cry of pity before the Father, coming from him, 
could have saved mankind), that Christ carried out the mission for 
which he was a man like us. He made atonement in strict justice , 129 

129 He only merited and could merit for others in strict justice and by a right 
acquired in this way. 


2 47 

and for all the sins of all men, because he willed to take all men in 
himself, and "all human suffering /' 130 And he also willed, because of 
his love for them and because of the superabundance "beyond any 
measure of reason" which is proper to God, that they themselves 
consummate this work of redemption with him and through him 
present in them— each for his own sake at first, freely receiving grace, 
along with the merits communicated by it and by the infinite merits 
of Jesus— and each for the pthers, paying also for them, not in strict 
justice (only Christ could do that), but through an effect of the 
superabundance of the love in which he unites them to himself, and 
by virtue of those "rights" of another nature, gratuitous rights freely 
granted by the Loved One to the loving one, which the union of love 
creates . 131 

Here is that coredemption, the notion of which has such capital im- 
portance, and is called upon, I think, to enlighten and help Christian 
consciousness more and more. Through coredemption— following in 
the footsteps of the Virgin, who is Coredemptrix in a unique and 
absolutely super-eminent sense proper to her alone— all the redeemed 
(to infinitely different degrees, the indigence of some being com- 
pensated for by the abundance of others) pursue with Christ, and 
through him, and in him, his work of redemption, being raised by 
his love and his generosity from being simply redeemed to being 
redeemers as well. 

" 'Jesus will be in agony till the end of the world/ There must be 
souls in which he continues to agonize." 132 

The "sensible Christians" who do not understand these things 
would do well, it seems to me, to ask themselves why the self- 
subsisting Being, who consummates in himself and in his infinite 
transcendence all the plenitude and perfection of being, wanted 
nonetheless to create other beings, who add absolutely nothing to 
divine Being, but into whom are poured out, infinitely remote from 
his infinite Perfection, finite participations in him. The same sensible 

130 Sum. theol.y III, 9.46, a. 5. 

131 It is this that the theologians — in a traditional jargon the specialists are 
fond of, but which is rather incongruous when applied to what is most precious in 
the world— call merit de congruo , in opposition to merit de condigno , of which 
only the Incarnate Word was capable. They seem to take pleasure in being under- 
stood only among themselves, to the exclusion of other mortals. . . . 

132 Journal de Raissa, op. cit. t pp. 233-234. 


Christians would do equally well, it seems to me, to ask themselves 
why Christ, who saved all, in one single moment of time, by the 
sacrifice of Calvary, has willed to have that sacrifice perpetuated all 
the days of our time through the Mass, which renders it sacramentally 
present on the altar. 

There is a remarkable study on coredemption by Father Marie- 
Joseph Nicolas , 133 who, with a theologian's authority I am far from 
pretending to, gives us basic insight into the subject. Father Nicolas 
is careful to establish the essential distinction we must make between 
the unique coredemption of Mary mediatrix, participant in the work 
of the Redeemer Jesus— in her inferior status as creature receiving all 
from her Son (but immaculate creature)— in the very act of re- 
demption, and, on the other hand, the common coredemption to 
which all Christians are called, and which makes them participate in 
the work of Jesus the Redeemer only as to the application of the fruits 
of redemption. I am sorry I cannot reproduce here this entire study. 
Still I would like to quote a few passages that I found particularly 

“It is a greater thing for man to redeem himself , to make atone- 
ment himself for the evil he did , to rehabilitate himself , than to be 
saved without doing anything himself. Hence it follows that the 
economy of Redemption is dominated entirely and down to its last 
detail by the idea that man must save himself . It is because man is 
incapable of doing so that God becomes man. But in making himself 
man he did not destroy the part that man has to play in Redemption. 
On the contrary, he made it fully possible." 134 

“Christ did not want to take advantage of being God in order to 
suffer less. He bore upon himself all the weight that one who would 
have been purely a man would have had to bear, he redeemed us as 
man , his divinity diminishing nothing of the human burden, but 
taking it upon itself and endowing his actions as man with the su- 
preme value of infinite sanctity and the universal range of action 
that the most painful purely human sufferings could never have at- 
tained. God did not make himself man in order to dispense man 
from satisfying and atoning, but on the contrary in order to permit 
him to do so. From this it follows, as far as we are able to understand 

133 M.-J. Nicolas, “La Co-redemption/’ Revue Thomiste, 1947, I. 

Ibid., p. 30. 



the profound mystery of the Cross, that the Divine Will linked our 
( salvation to an act [a human act of a Person who was God ] that by 
its nature comprises all that mankind would have had to suffer in 
order to purify itself of its faults. Christus sustinuit omnem passi - 
onem humanam .” 135 

Consequently, "Christ, far from dispensing us from suffering and 
death by his sacrifice, invites us to follow him and to reenact in our- 
selves, for us and for our brothers, that Passion which superabundantly 
merits for us all grace and all beatitude. ... If the Passion of Christ 
were not continued in humanity, it would not be a sufficiently 
human work. . . ” Commenting on the celebrated text of St. Paul 
to the Colossians already quoted in this book, St. Thomas states: 

"What was lacking in Christ's own sufferings was that they had not 
suffered by him in the bodies of St. Paul and of other Christians .” 136 
Consequently, we must say that "the entire Church is Coredemp- 
trix 137 since she cooperates in the redemption of men, not only as an 
instrument of the grace of Christ but by the offering of her own 
sacrifice / 7 138 And by the same token we must say that "all Chris- 
tians are coredeemers / 7 139 

"Of course, many men will be saved without having contributed v 
their full share. Others, on the contrary, will have given in super- 

135 Ibid., p. 31. The text quoted is taken from the Sum. theol., Ill, 46, 5. 

136 Ibid., p. 32. Cf. p 184; also farther, p. 252. 

137 The entire ClWch is coredemptrix; the saints above all, but also all the 
“good people” of whom Tauler speaks, or in brief, all the baptized, as Cardinal 
Joumet says, in the pages of v. II of UEglise du Verbe Incame in which he treated 
of coredemption (pp. 221-227 and 323-340). 

“ 'And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grate/ ( John 1:16). 

In passing from the head to the members, from Christ to the Church, grace does 
not lose its properties; and as it impelled Christ to satisfy, it will impel Christians 
following in his footsteps to join in the great movement of reparation to God for 
the sins of the world. What Christ did, Christians will strive to do, following his 
example: 'Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should 
follow in his steps’ (I Peter, 2:21). How would there be, between the Head and 
the Body, symbiosis and synergy if the action begun in the Head did not spread 
in the rest of the Body, if the suffering endured by Christ were not completed in 
his disciples? 'Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I 
complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, 
the Church' (Col. 1:24). The difficulty does not lie in explaining so simple a truth; 
it lies rather in explaining how Protestantism came to reject it'' (op. cit., p. 221). 

The question of coredemption has already been touched on p. 184. 

138 Ibid., p. 44. 

139 Ibid., p. 33. 


abundant measure. As charity grows, there is a proportionate increase 
in the desire and power of cooperating in the salvation of many 
souls. Some, by special function and by their state of life , are thus 
dedicated to the work of salvation, and the charity that they dispense 
in the service of the Church inspires not only apostolic action but 
self-sacrifice on their part whose bearing goes well beyond the efficacy 
of their words. To others it is charity alone, without external works, 
that gives this destination. Such a one was St. Therese of Lisieux, 
who, in the Body of the holy Church, felt herself to be the heart ” 140 

"This absolute conformity of the will of the saint to that of God, 
which merits for him, St. Thomas said, that God in return accomplish 
his will by listening to his prayers for his brothers, is the basis both of 
the additional merit due to love, and of the power of intercession. 
The greater the charity of a saint, the more powerful is his prayer. 
And the more close and personal his ties with the members of the 
mystical Body, the more his right to be heard applies to 
them. . . .” 141 

"Let us not be afraid to see too many creatures associated with this 
unique Creature that is the humanity of Christ. Because strictly speak- 
ing, the humanity of Christ is created, but it is not a creature; it be- 
longs substantially and personally to the Creator. Because of that it 
is an instrument of God in a unique and incommunicable sense. It 
receives in turn the power of associating with itself the rest of the 
created world as a sort of extension of itself, and of communicating 
to others from its plenitude without ceasing to be the source and the 
first principle. When we have understood that the profound meaning 
of the Incarnation is the widest possible diffusion of the divine among 
creatures, the whole mystery, not only of the divinization of man, 
but of the cooperation of man in his own divinization, becomes 
clearer.” 142 

I have felt it important to recall the foundation of the doctrine of 
coredemption as it has been submitted to our reflection by an emi- 
nent theologian. The notion of coredemption, indeed, is as old as 
Christianity and the Mass. It is because it is simply but one with the 
Christian faith in redemption that this notion took a lot of time to 

140 Ibid., p. 33. 

141 Ibid., p. 40. 

142 Ibid., p. 43. 


2 5 * 

emerge explicitly (in the last centuries of the Middle Ages and in the 
following centuries), and finally to find itself denoted by a special 
word (about half a century ago, I think), and conceptualized in an 
articulated theological doctrine (with the element of controversy 
that is never lacking in such cases). The word now has complete 
freedom of the city in the Church (it appears in two decrees of the 
Holy Office , 143 and equivalent terms have been employed in solemn 
documents of the Sovereign 'Pontiffs). And it is in the perspective 
pointed out by P£re Nicolas, I have no doubt, that doctrinal agree- 
ment will be achieved among Catholic theologians. It would be an 
accomplished fact today except for the fear, felt by some of our 
scholars, of annoying that good man Luther, a fear that has nothing 
to do with a genuinely ecumenical spirit. But this type of easy-going 
zeal quickly wears off, and if the common agreement in question is 
not for today, it is for tomorrow, I firmly hope so. 

In any case, in order to live in their prayers and agonies the reality 
of coredemption, with and through Jesus present in us by his grace, 
contemplative souls did not wait for the speculative intellect gradu- 
ally to disengage the doctrine and explanations which deal with it. 
They knew this truth by experience, they knew that, like the truth 
(of which it is but an essential aspect) of the redemption by the 
“Son of Man/' Head of the mystical Body, it is dear above all to 
Christian faith and life. St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Catherine de 
Ricci and St. Angela of Foligno, Tauler, St. Paul of the Cross, Marie 
of the Incarnation, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux, 
and many others— it is not my task to recall all the great testimony 
that contemplatives since the Apostle Paul have given to this truth. 

But since this not-too conventional book (or this sort of testament), 
written in haste in the evening of my life, is in my mind entirely dedi- 
cated to the one who instructed my poor philosopher's head in the 
things of God; and since this last chapter, in particular, could not 
have been written without the help I have always received from her, 
I will certainly be permitted to quote her still further, and to pre- 
sent here some of her thoughts on the subject that occupies our 

To a mother tortured by the loss of her child, Ra'issa wrote: “That 
Pasch of which the Lord said, 'With desire I have desired to eat this 

143 Denzinger, ed. 21-23, 1937, no. 1978 a, n. 2. 


Pasch with you’ — you are eating it now with our Saviour: the Pasch of 
the Passion and of the Crucifixion, through which salvation comes to 
men. Through your sorrow and your patience you are coredeemers 
with Christ. 

“It is the sublime yet ordinary truth of Christianity, that suffering 
united with love works salvation . . . 

“God has suddenly plunged you both into the very heart of this 
ultimate reality: redeeming suffering. And when one knows by faith 
(that is to say, with all possible certitude) the marvels he works with 
our suffering, with the substance of our crushed hearts— can one 
coldly refuse him?” 144 

I am still reading from Rai’ssa's notes: “In some manner, I am hav- 
ing personal experience of that great mystery St. Paul speaks of, mak- 
ing up what is lacking in the Passion of Christ. 

“Being the Passion of God, it is forever gathered up into the 
eternal. What is lacking to it is development in time . 

“Jesus suffered only during a certain time. He cannot himself 
develop his Passion and death in time. Those who consent to let them- 
selves to be penetrated by him to the point of being perfectly as- 
similated to him, accomplish, throughout the whole length of time, 
what is lacking in his Passion. They have consented to become flesh of 
his flesh. Terrible marriage, in \yhich love is not only strong as death 
but begins by being a death, and a thousand deaths. 

“ T will espouse thee in blood/ 

“ T am a bridegroom of blood/ 

“ Tt is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God/ 

“And Jesus's words to St. Angela of Foligno: Tt is not in jesting 
that I have loved you/ ” 145 

All Christians, as Raissa wrote in the letter quoted just before this 
text, and as Pere M.-J. Nicolas reminded us earlier, are called to the 

144 Journal de Ra'issa , op. cit., p. 105. Further on, apropos of those who by the 
grace of Christ belong invisibly to the Church in non-Christian lands: "Can we 
not say that the souls which are saved in this way do not collaborate actively in the 
salvation of the world? They are saved, but they do not save. . . .” (At least, we 
thought, they collaborate actively in the salvation of the world only by the fervor 
of their individual intercession, not by virtue of the great common work of 
coredemption accomplished by the Body of which Christ is the Head, and into 
which the baptized are incorporated perfectly enough for the part to act through 
the whole , the member through the whole body.) Ibid., pp. 191-192. 

1 4 * Ibid., p. 228. 


2 53 

work of coredemption, some 'without contributing their full share,” 
others "giving in superabundant measure.” 146 That superabundant 
share is the share of the jcontemplatives, and it is of that share that 
Raissa is speaking here. 

"There is also,” she adds, "a fulfillment of the Passion which can 
be given only by fallible creatures, and that is the struggle against the 
fall, against the attraction of this world as such, against the attraction 
of so many sins which' represent human happiness. That gift Jesus 
could not make to the Father; only we can do it. It involves a manner 
of redeeming the world, and of suffering, which is accessible only to 
sinners. By renouncing the good things of this world, which, in cer- 
tain cases more numerous than one might think^ sin would have pro- 
cured us— by giving to God our human and temporal happiness, we 
give him, proportionately, as much as he gives us, because we give 
him our ail 7 the widow's mite of the Gospel.” 147 

Why have I, in a section entitled Contemplation on the roads , 
treated of things that concern all contemplatives, and primarily, no 
doubt, those who have left everything to consecrate themselves to 

At first, because it seemed to me opportune to recall that they 
concern also those who seek to unite themselves to God on the roads 
of the World. Then because, in spite of all the difficulties and the ob- 
stacles that they encounter on this path— and that oblige them to 
adopt a rule of "profound and universal humility,” perpetual thanks- 
giving for all the gratuitous blessings they have received, and com- 
pletely surrendered trust in the mercy of God— they still have a 
certain advantage, with respect to the prise de conscience of the 
things in question: I mean, as I have already pointed out, that they, 
more than the others, live in constant contact with sinners and with 
sin, and therefore with the great mystery into which "so many sin- 
ners in the world” force anyone to enter who says to himself: it is for 
them that Christ came and that he died on the cross, and he does not 
cease to love them and to will their salvation, and his work of re- 
demption continued by the Church cannot be in vain. 

146 Cf. p. 249. 

147 Journal de Raissa , op. cit. f pp. 228-299. 

2 54 



In the life of every contemplative— depending on Christ’s choice, 
or, in other words, on the requests (sometimes unconscious, per- 
haps) of the soul and the reply which is made— in the life of every 
contemplative there may come a moment when it is necessary to 
answer a great and redoubtable question— even if while not daring to 
say yes, out of fear (and there is good reason to be afraid), but know- 
ing that that point must certainly be passed and relying on the 
grace of God, and, in fact, accepting by not saying no— the great and 
redoubtable question that the Lord asked James and John— the ques- 
tion of the Chalice: “Potestis bibere calicem , quern ego bibiturus 
sum” are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink? (Matt. 
20:22). This moment is indeed a crucial one. 

Pere Lallemant, in La Doctrine Spirituelle, told us on the other 
hand: “It is necessary only to renounce for once and for all, all our 
advantages and all our satisfactions, all our designs and all our desires, 
in order to depend no longer on anything but God’s good pleasure.” 
And the moment in which the soul makes this renunciation he calls 
the moment of passing over the< step. This also depends on the free 
choice of Jesus, in other words on the desires of the soul and the re- 
sponse that they receive. 

I think that the moment of the Chalice and the moment of passing 
over the step are but one and the same; 148 and that it presents itself 
to such and such among us in a different fashion, by reason of the fact 
that among the souls that have passed under the regime of the gifts of 
the Holy Spirit, some find themselves above all under the regime of 

148 The moment of which I am speaking here must not be confused with 
another, which precedes it (cf. p. 231) in which the soul passes under the regime 
of the gifts , or enters into the life of the spirit. In the moment when it entered 
under the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the soul, in a manner completely 
hidden in the spiritual supra -conscious, crossed a threshold, the end of a transi- 
tional phase which also is too profound to be perceived by consciousness. From 
that point on the soul will live under the habitual motion of the gifts of the Holy 

In the moment of which I am speaking here the soul is already under the regime 
of these gifts, and it is to a consciously perceived call, to a question that it must 


2 55 

those (Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge) which are con- 
cerned more with contemplative life, and others find themselves 
under the regime of the gifts which are more concerned with active 
life (the first three gifts are always there, of course, in this seven- 
stringed lyre on which God plays at will in the soul, but vibrating 
then under less frequent and lighter touches, like a muted accompani- 
ment of the stronger sound of the other strings). 

Among the souls who have-entered into the life of the spirit, there- 
fore, there are those who are engaged in the active life (they also have 
| the contemplation of love, but atypical or masked)— let us say that 
they follow the lead of Martha, or of the Apostle James; and there are 
some who are engaged above all, or exclusively, in the contemplative 
life— let us say that they follow the lead of Mary, the sister of Martha, 
or that of John, whose head rested on the heart of Jesus at the Last 

Supper. For the latter, the moment of which we are speaking now, if 

( and when it comes, presents itself, no doubt, with particular clarity 
and sharpness. 

In any case, for both groups it is one and the same moment: the 
moment when they are called to become disciples , and when they ac- 
t cept or reject the call. (In my opinion refusal is probably quite rare, 

| yet there is the case of the rich young man who would certainly have 

wanted to be perfect, and who went away sorrowful . . .) (Matt. 

i 19:22). 

There I am touching on something that seems to me terribly mys- 
1 terious, but of which we must try to be somewhat aware, since its role 

, is of primary importance in the general economy of Christianity: the 

distinction we must recognize, among the members of the People of 
I God, between the disciples and the great mass of— let us not say “the 

I ordinary Christians,” which would be a rather inept expression, for a 
Christian is never ordinary — let us say the always beloved of Jesus, for 
whom he gave his Blood, whom he thirsts to save, and for whom his 
Mother weeps in beatitude. What are we to think, then? It is the dis- 
ciples that he entrusts in particular with doing the job with him and 
fj through him. 

We must admit that they are probably not numerous. Here I quote 
J Raissa : 

“ Tf any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and 



wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, 
he cannot be my disciple . 7 ( Luke 14:26) 

“The demands of Christ as regards his disciples are absolutely inhu- 
man, they are divine. There is no doubt about it, he who wishes to be 
Christ's disciple — must hate his own life. The image of Jesus Cruci- 
fied is for the disciple. 

“But such demands are only for the disciples. As regards the com- 
mon body of men, Christianity is human in the sense that it accepts 
men in their weakness and inconstancy, and also in their nature at- 
tached to natural goods (father, mother, etc.). They will never feel 
an inward call as severe as the one that St. Luke records. 

“All that is demanded of them is to believe, to love, and to con- 
tinue to hope after they have gone astray, however wildly. 

“Thus it is not the sinners, the 'worldly,' who have the greatest 
fear of God— rather it is those who, having been chosen as disciples, 
know that they are, and will be, more severely treated. From these, 
all is demanded." 149 

And Raissa said further: “I am coming now to take humanity 
quietly— for what it is. Without exclamations— regrets— sighs— and 
groans. In a way quite different from that of Leibnizian optimism— all 
is for the best. God knows what he permits. 

“He is not like a man who regretfully permits what he cannot pre- 
vent. He has let men go their own way armed with their freedom— and 
they go it. They go, gamble and work, risk everything— win more or 
less, and perhaps will end by winning everything. God has simply 
reserved for himself one Man who is his Son. And this Man-God calls 
to himself, for his own work (which he also has to do with human 
freedom), calls a small number of men— a handful in every century 
— to work in his own way. 'He who would be my disciple, let him take 
up his cross and follow me'— and that is sufficient. 

“To all is given the precept of charity— the duty of hope— and this 
Word which is the foundation of hope: 'Much will be forgiven her for 
she has loved much.' " 160 

I have just said that this book, written by the old Jacques with the 
liberty of those who have seen too much, is all dedicated to Raissa. It 

149 Journal de Raised, op. cit., p. 345. 

150 Ibid., p. 341. 


2 57 

is fitting, therefore, that it should close with a text of hers, in which 
one feels the urgency of certain things "that must be said to men,” 
and of which I think our times stand in particular need. 

The True Face of God 

Love and the Law 
(Text of Ra'issa 151 ) 

Tried and tempted souls feel vaguely that the law, which is so hard 
for them to observe, cannot be identified with God who is love. 

But this feeling either remains vague, or else leads to a certain con- 
tempt for the law, or else turns the soul against God who is then 
seen as a hard and exacting master— which is to deny God— or would 
be to deny God, if the soul pushed such thoughts to their final con- 
clusion, to their logical consequences. 

Well, it is salutary to distinguish (to speak in legal terms) the case 
of God from the case of the Law. 

Only by grasping that distinction, can the soul behave as it should 
toward God— and toward the law. 

When Jesus felt himself abandoned by God on the Cross, it was be- 
cause the face of Love was then hidden from him, and the whole of his 
humanity was subjected to the law, without any mitigation— some- 
thing which no man except the Man-God would have been able to 
endure without dying. 

Jesus on the Cross, and very particularly at that moment of total 
dereliction, suffered the full rigor of the law of the transmutation of 
one nature into another — as if he had not been God; it was his hu- 
manity as such, taken from the Virgin, which had to feel the full 
weight of this law. For the head must experience the law that he im- 
poses on his members. Because, having assumed human nature, he 
had to experience this supreme law to which human nature, called to 
participate in the divine nature, is subject. 

And if he had not suffered from the rigor of this law, it would not 

151 Ibid., p. 341. 


have been possible to say that the Word took a heart like our own in 
order to feel for our sufferings. 

This law of the transformation of natures— which comprises in it 
all moral and divine laws— is something necessary, physical, ontologi- 
cal if you like— God himself cannot abolish it, just as he cannot pro- 
duce the absurd. 

But this law— the Law— is not He— He is Love. 

So when a soul suffers, and suffers from this inexorable Law of 
transmutation of a nature into a higher nature (and this is the mean- 
ing of all human history)— God is with this nature which he has made 
and which is suffering— he is not against it. If he could transform that 
nature into his own by abolishing the law of suffering and death, he 
would abolish it— because he takes no pleasure in the spectacle of pain 
and death. But he cannot abolish any law inscribed in being. 

The face of the law and its rigor, the face of suffering and death is 
not the face of God; God is love. 

And his love has made him behave toward men in a way that may 
seem capricious. 

To the Ancients, like Abraham and the other Patriarchs, he did not 
reveal the whole law; in that state- of nature he did not even reveal to 
men all the moral laws inscribed in nature. Because the observation of 
the whole body of these laws would have supposed the perfection of 
human nature to be already realized— and this was not so— or else 
would have demanded the help of Christie graces 152 which were not 
yet acquired. Hence that strange liberty left to men in the state of na- 
ture — even when these men are Abram , 153 Isaac and Jacob— and 
then Moses and the Jews, up to the coming of Christ. And yet it was 
in this state that God chose Abram to be the Father of Believers. 

Abram, this simple man, with a heart which never resists the voice 
of God. He believes God who speaks to him. He does what God tells 
him to do. He goes from sacrifice to sacrifice: first he leaves his country 

152 All graces received by men since the fall of Adam are Christie graces. But 
Ra'issa is speaking here of the graces of Christ come , or of sacramentally Christie 
graces. [J.] 

153 Abraham was first called Abram; that is why Rai'ssa, in this passage, freely 
used the two names. Cf. her Histoire d’ Abraham ou les premiers ages de la con- 
science morale. English translation in v. I of The Bridge , published by Msgr. John 
Oesterreicher. [Trans.] 


2 59 

and his father— the hearths of Ur of the Chaldees— he accepts the 
nomadic life. And then he quits easy faith; it is relatively easy to be- 
lieve God when he promises abundant blessings— and an immense 
posterity— but when the only son, the still sterile boy, has to be sacri- 
ficed, how painful it is to believe! And it would even be impossible 
to obey— since obedience here requires the commission of what ap- 
pears to be a crime— if faith did not lead Abram as if by the hand. 

Never was greater grace of faith in God given to any man. And 
never was any man greater in his fidelity— if we except Joseph and 

Thus Abraham, too, knew the hard law of the transformation of 
the natural man into the spiritual and divine man— but with a wide 
zone of human liberty in which many laws, left in shadow by God, 
were put in parenthesis. 

And, as for us, he has revealed to us all the terrible demands of the 
divinization of man. 

But in order to reveal them to us, he came himself— not with the 
blood of goats and bulls— but with the Blood of Christ through which 
his Love for us is made visible. 

Thus the new Law is harsher than the old Law. 

But at the same time the love of God (which softens everything) 
is more widespread. 

It is in the blood of Jesus Crucified that the Sacraments are bom, 

whether they purify— Baptism 

whether they vivify— Penance 

whether they bring growth— the Eucharist . . . 

The law— all the laws— having become so clearly, and so terribly 

the face of the love of God thus risks being obscured. 

This is why it is more necessary than ever to distinguish between 
Love and the Law. 

When nature, called upon to obey, groans and suffers, she is not 
hateful to God, for quitting its own shape is a loss for all nature— a 
suffering for natures endowed with sensibility. 

When human nature shrinks back and fails in this labor, it is not 
hateful to God; he loves it, he wants to save it— he does save it, pro- 
vided it does not want to be separated from him, provided it recog- 
nizes the need of purification for salvation: if a sinner recognizes this 


only at the hour of his death, he is saved and goes to Purgatory to be 

So what one must first and foremost tell men, and go on telling 
them, is to love God— to know that he is Love and to trust to the end 
in his Love. 

The law is just. The law is necessary— with the very necessity of 
transformation for salvation, that is to say, for eternal life with God. 

But the law is not God. 

And God is not the law. He is Love. 

If God has the face of the law for men— men draw back because 
they feel that love is more than the law— in this they are wrong only 
because they do not recognize the salutary necessity of the law. 

But the observation of the Law without love would be of no avail 
for salvation. 

And love can save a man even at the last second of a bad life— if, in 
that second, the man has found the light of love— perhaps if he has al- 
ways believed that God is Love. 

Souls must be delivered from that feeling of enmity they experi- 
ence (passively and actively) toward God when they see him in the 
apparatus of laws which to them is an image hostile to love— and 
which masks God's true face. 

The Cross- it was the Law that imposed it on Jesus— so Jesus took 
it in order to share the harshness of the law with us. 

These things must be said to men. If these things were not said, 
men would draw away from God when they suffer, because the law is 
a thing which seems to separate us from God, and then it presents it- 
self — if we do not think of love — as our enemy , and God can never 
present himself as an enemy. 

Law is, in a certain manner, opposed to love. God has made it inso- 
far as he is the Creator of being. But insofar as he is our end and our 
beatitude, he calls us beyond it. 

The law is proposed externally, it implies a subjection— in itself it 
seems to have nothing to do with mercy— nor with the equality of 
friendship— nor with familiarity. 

It is truly a necessity; only a necessity. 

Love gives over the head of the Law. 

It forgives. 

Love creates trust— freedom of spirit— equality— familiarity. 



(CF. CHAPTER 5, P. 11 9) 

In an attempt to give support to his idea of a cosmic Christ, Teilhard 
invokes the thought of St. Paul, but in doing so he teilhardizes Paul in 
a way which cannot be accepted. 

Let us reread the great text of the Epistle to the Romans ( 8 : 
12-22) : “I consider that the sufferings of the present time are out of 
all proportion to the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation 
in expectancy is longing for the revelation of the sons of God” [in 
glorified mankind]. "Indeed the creation has been subjected to van- 
ity [rrj fiaTaLOTrjTi] (not of its own will, but because of [Slo] him who 
subjected it) in hope, because the creation itself will be set free from 
the servitude to corruption so as to enter into the liberty of the 
children of God. For we know that the whole creation is groaning and 
in pains of childbirth up to that day.” 1 

Christian thought did not wait for Pere Teilhard to understand the 
words of St. Paul as it should be, that is, in a cosmic sense. The Greek 
Fathers already understood them in this sense, as did St. Thomas 
when he spoke in this connection (Comm, on the Epistle to the 
Romans, Ch. IV) of the elementa hujus mundi. But it would be 
senseless to look on the final end in question— the liberation awaited 
by creation— as the end result of the Evolution of created things in 
their ascent toward God and toward the Omega Point — an Evolution 
that can be conceived only as being of a natural order (even assuming 
that a cosmic Christ is the Prime Mover and the Noyau collecteur , the 
Nucleus in whom everything is gathered. Because if St. Paul's text 
gives the exegetes a great deal of trouble, one thing is still perfectly 
clear: that creation awaits a certain fulfillment of a supernatural order , 
since it is tied to the revelation of the sons of God and to the glory 
that is to be revealed in us, and to entering into the glorious liberty of 


1 The author's translation. 


the children of God; that is, in the new world that will be inaugurated 
by the Resurrection of the dead. 

"Creation was subjected to vanity not of its own will” (that is to 
say, against a consubstantial desire— it is a question of what philoso- 
phers and theologians call un Desir de nature , a "nature-desire,” in- 
scribed in the very being of things— or an ontological desire, even in 
man, in whom this "nature-desire” gives rise to a conscious desire), 
creation "will be set free from the servitude to corruption ” What 
greater vanity and what worse servitude than that of beings subject to 
corruption, and of living beings subject to death? ("Who will free me 
of this body of death?” asks St. Paul.) The "nature-desire” we are 
speaking of is the desire to escape corruption and death. It is inscribed 
in every being here on earth. But it is man who brings it out into the 
light of consciousness and gives it a voice— a voice that is not simply 
man's voice but that of the entire (material) creation, which man 
epitomizes in himself: in such a way that when man bemoans corrup- 
tion and death, he expresses not only the desire of man but the desire, 
carried to its highest point, of all of creation. And yet what is more 
impossible, for all creatures in this world, than escaping (through the 
sole forces of nature) corruption and death? 

It is through the supernatural transfiguration of man, head of all 
creation (bound to matter, let it be understood— man himself is a 
being of flesh) and by virtue of this transfiguration, it is through the 
glory that will be revealed in us, it is through the revelation of the 
sons of God , it is through entering into the liberty proper to their 
glory, that the creation will find itself supernaturally transfigured, 
transferred to a new world, or (in a perfectly unimaginable way, 
moreover) will no longer be subject to corruption and death, and will 
be set free. 

Until that day it will groan, and will continue to suffer the pains of 
childbirth (“in hope,” that is, while hoping for liberation) . That does 
not mean that the coming of the world of glory will be the fruit of 
cosmic Evolution! The great rupture caused by the thunderlightning 
of the Resurrection, which will change everything, will have put an 
end to the Evolution of the world in order to inaugurate the eternal 
age of glorified matter and glorified man. The new world will be born 
of the pains and groans of the creature, but as the fruit of its trans- 
figuration by an act of God above the entire natural order and the 
evolution of the world. 

There is no reason to be astonished that a "nature-desire” might 
long for something that goes beyond nature, and which nature is un- 
able to satisfy; it is rather the contrary that would be surprising. An- 



other example, a classic one in theology, of a “nature-desire” whose 
fulfillment cannot but be supernatural, is the desire to see God's es- 
sence. This desire is natural to man; he desires, precisely because of 
his intellectual nature, to see the Cause of being in its essence; and 
there is nothing in the equipment of his intellect (nor in that of the 
angel) that gives him the power to do so. To see God (to see God in 
so far as he is God, not in so far as he is the Cause of what is not 
God), the human intellect must be supernaturally transfigured, and 
it must see God not Through any of the intelligible forms the recep- 
tion of which can “actuate” it naturally, but through God himself, 
through the divine essence itself filling the created intellect with its 
infinite intelligibility, and talcing within it the place of any intelligible 
form of which this intellect can make use as a natural means of know- 

Since the text of St. Paul with which this note is dealing has been 
subjected all through the history of the Church to the most varied 
interpretations (those of the Teilhardians not included), and since 
this text is considered, it would seem, “the exegete’s cross,” I have 
deemed it permissible for a philosopher to suggest the interpretation 
that seems correct to him, after a meditation sufficiently free of in- 
timidating preconceptions. 

As to the clause because of him who subjected it (the creation has 
been “subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him 
who subjected it . . .”), that clause refers, I think, to the pain suf- 
fered by all of creation from the fact of original sin, original sin having 
not only caused man to lose the immortality proper to the preter- 
natural gifts of the state of innocence, but having also obliged the 
cosmos to remain 2 in that servitude from which it aspires to be set 
free. (I am assuming that in what St. Paul says is implied the idea 
that if Man had not sinned, he and the cosmos would have been 
transferred after a relatively short delay to a final state, “glorious” al- 
so, though incomparably less exalted than that which they will enjoy 
in fact through the merits of Christ crucified and risen. In such a 
glorious state men would have had the vision of God, but not as mem- 
bers of the Incarnate Son; and the cosmos would have been freed 
from the servitude to corruption, but without participating through 
Man in the glory of Christ.) 

2 Obviously the non-satisfaction of the trans-natural aspirations of nature could 
not, for the cosmos, have been of a penal character before the sin of man. If it 
acquired a penal character for the cosmos, it is only inasmuch as the sin of Man 
has a repercussion on the cosmos by delaying excessively (with respect to the 
original design of the opus CTeativum) the satisfaction of the trans-natural aspira- 
tions of the whole (material) creation. 


(CF. CHAPTER 5, P. 12l) 

I am sorry that I did not, until it was too late to mention it in my 
text, know of the remarkable study of Claude Tresmontant on "Le 
Pere Teilhard de Chardin et la Theologie" (in the periodical Lettre, 
nos. 49-50, September-October, 1962), and that I could refer to it only 
in this Appendix added after the proofs were ready. 

Pere Teilhard was neither a metaphysician nor a theologian; but 
Claude Tresmontant rightly lays stress on the fact that an intense 
metaphysical and theological preoccupation— entirely dominated, un- 
fortunately, by a visionary scientist's cult for the World and for Cos- 
mogenesis— was constantly at work in his thought, and constantly 
animated it. 

It has always been hard for Teilhard to adjust to the Christian idea 
of creation. For him, "to create is to unite," 1 which is true only in the 
order of things effectuated or "created" by nature and by man. To 
create, he says further, is to "unify," 2 to unify the "pure multiple" 
—"the scattered shadow of his Unity" that "from all eternity, God saw 
beneath his feet," 3 and a "kind of positive Nothingness," 4 "a plea 
for being which it looks as if God had not been able to resist." 5 So 
that "God consummates himself only by uniting himself" [with the 
Else], 6 which is a view of Hegelian theogony rather than of Christian 
theology. 7 In 1953, Teilhard wrote: "What infuses Christianity with 
life is not a sense of the contingence of the created, but rather a sense 
of the mutual Completion of the World and of God 8 — "pletomiza- 
tion” he says further, 9 improperly invoking St. Paul: another Hegelian 
theme that can perhaps vitalize Teilhardian meta-Christianity, but is 
adverse to Christianity. 

1 Comment je vois, 1948, Par. 29; Tresmontant, p. 30. 

2 La Lutte contre la Multitude, February 26, 1917; Tr., p. 14. 

3 Ibid., Tr., p. 13. 

4 U Union creatrice , November, 1917; Tr. p. 16. 

5 Comment je vois, Par. 28, Tr., p. 28. 

6 Ibid., Par. 27; Tr., p. 24. 

7 Cf. Tr., p. 27. 

8 Contingence de VUnivers et gout humain de survivre; Tr. p. 32. 

• Lettre a C. Tresmontant , April 7, 1954; Tr. p. 33. 




Apropos of another text of Teilhard: 10 "We become aware that in 
order to create (since, once again, to create is to unite), God is in- 
evitably induced to immerse himself in the Multitude, in order to 
'incorporate it' into himself,” Claude Tresmontant notes (p. 40) 
that here Teilhard is alluding to the Incarnation, and that Christian 
thought will never accept "to link creation and the Incarnation by a 
bond of necessity, nor to call the Incarnation an 'immersion’ in the 
Multiple”: which is in keeping with the remarks that I made in 
Chapter 5. 11 • ** ’ 

Another point on which the metaphysical and theological views of 
Teilhard clearly depart from Christian thought is the problem of 
Evil, a problem that, according to him, "in' our modern perspective of 
a Universe in a process of cosmo genesis ' . no longer exists : 12 be- 
cause the Multiple, "since it is multiple, that is to say essentially sub- 
ject to the play of probabilities of change in its arrangements,” "is 
absolutely unable to progress toward unity without engendering Evil 
here or there— by statistical necessity.” 13 

"Evil,” Claude Tresmontant rightly observes, "is not simply a 
temporary defect in a progressive arrangement. The death of six mil- 
lion Jews in concentration camps, the resurgence of torture in colonial 
wars, are not the result of a wrong arrangement of the Multiple— but 
of the perverse freedom of man, of what is properly wickedness, con- 
tempt for man, the taste for destruction, falsehood, the will to power, 
the passions, the pride of the flesh and of the spirit.” 14 "Evil is the 
work of man, and not of matter. Man is fully responsible for the evil 
that he does to man, for the crimes against man committed in the 
whole of mankind and in all places.” 15 That is what Teilhard has al- 
ways been reluctant to see. (He did not cry out in protest against the 
extermination of the Jews by the Nazis; while, in spite of the nobility 
of his heart, his passion for cosmogenesis led him to write intolerable 
lines on the "profound intuitions” of totalitarian systems, on the 
Abyssinian War, on the myths of fascism and communism. 16 ) 

Claude Tresmontant is right to conclude: "No, sin, demoniacal 
deeds, cannot be explained by a 'statistical disorder/ This would come 

10 Comment je vois, Par. 29; Tr., p. 39. 

11 See p. 122. 

12 Comment je vots, Par. 29-30; Tr. p. 41. 

13 Ibid . 

Tr., pp. 42-43 
Tr., p.43 

Cf. Charles Journet , Nova et Vetera , April-June, 1966, pp. 148, 149 



down to transposing to another order, the spiritual one, processes of 
thought that are valid in the study of Brownian movements.” 17 

As for original sin, it is explained "for Teilhard, like evil, of which 
it is only a particular instance, by the Multiple. In summary, it is ma- 
teriality that is responsible for evil, for sin, and more particularly for 
original sin:— a Platonic, not a Christian explanation.” 18 "For Teilhard, 
original sin is coextensive with all of creation, physical as well, and bi- 
ological.” 10 On this subject we must read the letter of June 19, 1953, 
too long for me to quote it in its entirety, in which Teilhard declared 
that "fundamentally, our Universe has always been (and any con- 
ceivable Universe could not be otherwise) in its totality and from its 
origins, mingled with good and bad turns of luck; that is to say, it is 
impregnated with evil; that is to say, in a state of original sin; that is 
to say, baptizable.” 20 Here, too, Claude Tresmontant is right to con- 
clude (p. 52) : "Sin is not such a thing, it is an act of freedom, and 
original sin is the deprivation of divine life. Neither matter nor the 
multiple has anything to do with it.” 

After a lengthy study on “ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin penseur re - 
ligieux ” (Nova et Vetera , October-December 1962), Cardinal Jour- 
net published recently— too late for me to make use of it in my text 
—a briefer but illuminating article, 21 where we find further impor- 
tant remarks on the theological effort of Teilhard, as well as other 
distressing quotations from him. I ill quote only one here: "In sud- 
den, clear and vivid impressions, I perceive that my strength and my 
joy all stem from the fact that I see realized for me, in some manner, 
the fusion of God and the World, the latter giving Immediacy to the 
Divine, the former spiritualizing the tangible.” 22 

Such a text almost makes me regret having suggested in Chapter 
5 23 that there were probably touches of supernatural mystique in 
the religious experience of Teilhard. For anyone who reflects on this 
passage, weighing the meaning of the words, it is in any case a text of 
singular significance. In the sudden, clear and vivid impressions of 
P£re Teilhard, it is through the World, through the created , that the 
Divine was made "immediate” to him! Pere de Lubac assures us that 

17 Tr., p.45. 

18 Tr. p. 51. 

19 Ibid. 

2 ° Tr. p. 51. 

21 “La synthkse du Pdre Teilhard de Chardin est-elle dissociable?” Nova et 
Vetera , April-June, 1966. 

22 Joumet, 1918; p. 147. (The word Immediacy is underlined by Teilhard.) 

29 See pp. 118-119. 



“Pere Teilhard was a mystic. A genuine one.” It all depends on what 
one means by “a mystic , a genuine one.” If we mean in the manner 
of Ibn 'Arab! and the masters of natural mystique, which can certainly 
coexist with the state of grace, then yes, Teilhard was a true mystic 
of that mystique. But in the manner of the disciple “whom Jesus 
loved,” and of all the masters of that mystique in which the soul is 
supernaturally raised to the experience of things divine by the grace 
of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit— in other 
words, in the sense fn which a Catholic theologian's readers would 
understand, as self-explanatory, the words “a mystic, a genuine one.” 
The more I think about it, the more doubtful it seems to me. 

I will now quote some passages from Cardinal Journet's conclu- 
sion: “Coming paradoxically to the defense of Teilhard,” he writes 
(pp. 180-181), “we hold that his doctrine is logical, that his vision of 
the world is coherent, that one must either accept it as a whole, or 
reject it as a whole. But the dilemma is a serious one. 

“If we reject it, we are being faithful to all of traditional Christian- 
ity, we are accepting Christian revelation as it has been preserved and 
developed in the course of centuries by the divinely assisted magis- 
terium. And of course, in this perspective, it will be the duty of 
Christian thought to be constantly open and attentive to the prodi- 
gious progress of the sciences in our times, and, in particular, to as- 
sume, in its proper perspective, all the true and even probably true 
elements that are to be found in the idea of the evolution of the 
whole universe of matter, and especially of living organisms . . . 

“If, on the contrary, we accept Teilhard's vision of the world, we 
know from the start — we have been duly warned— which notions of 
traditional Christianity will have to be transposed , and which we must 
bid farewell: 'Creation, Spirit, Evil, God (and, more particularly, 
original Sin, Cross, Resurrection, Parousia, Charity. . . / ” 24 

The list is that of Pere Teilhard himself in a text of January 1, 
1951, 25 in which he declares that “from the mere transposition” of 
the traditional 26 vision into “ dimensions of Cosmogenesis ,” “all these 

24 Journet, p. 150. 

25 Joumet, p. 146. 

26 He describes this vision as “traditionally expressed in terms of Cosmos.” A 
singularly meaningful misjudgment of a pseudo-theology obsessed by Physics: as 
if traditionally Christian thought had ever, at any time at all since the days of 
evangelical preaching, expressed the concepts of Spirit of Evil, of original Sin, of 
the Cross, of the Resurrection, of Parousia, of Charity, of God himself, in terms 
of Cosmos! The Christian faith tells us that God is the creator of heaven and 



notions, transported into dimensions of 'genesis/ become clarified 
and cohere in an astounding way/' Cardinal Journet is right in observ- 
ing that in that case we will have to bid them farewell. Because thus 
transported "into dimensions of Cosmogenesis," there remains in 
them nothing Christian but the name; they make sense only in a 
Gnostic cosmo-theology of a Hegelian variety. 

I return to Cardinal Jourfiet's text to quote from it still another 
passage. "We hold this inner vision of Teilhard to be powerful and 
intrinsically coherent. Consequently, a kind of apologetics that, anx- 
ious to be timely, founds upon the evolutionist synthesis of Teilhard, 
must, under penalty of lapsing into a 'Religion of Evolution' con- 
stantly intervene from outside that synthesis in order to right it and 
turn it in the direction of orthodoxy . 27 Such a kind of apologetics will 
perhaps have partially happy results in the short run, but not without 
laying the groundwork for serious disappointments in the future. 
The question that presents itself -here is that of the very nature of 
apologetics." 28 

"Must apologetics" asks Cardinal Journet, "be primarily preoccu- 
pied with timeliness, and turn toward doctrines which, at the price of 
serious misunderstandings, . . . have the strongest grip on our 
times? ... Or should it turn toward the truest doctrines, whether 
they please our contemporaries or not?" 29 I, myself, would ask, with 
the bluntness proper to the Peasant of the Garonne: is it the function 
of apologetics to lead minds to the Truth by using the seductions 
and approaches of any error whatever, as long as with such tricks the 
takings are good, since the only thing which matters is efficacy, and 
a maximum output in the manufacturing of baptized souls? Is it its 
function to produce shock Christians with respect to whom any kind 
of stimulant is enough, as soon as they help to make a crowd and are 
organized? Or do apologetics have to lead us to Truth via truth, 
frankly showing the way to those who have a desire for the Truth 
that makes us free, be it in paying the price of curing ourselves of a 
lot of illusions? Deus non eget meo mendacio, St. Augustine said: 
God does not need my lie. 

earth, of all things visible and invisible — Creator of the Cosmos, yes! But it would 
be nonsensical to claim that because of that he is conceived in terms of Cosmos. 
Whether or not the cosmos is in genesis, God is its Creator by the same right , 
and changing absolutely nothing in the notion of the First Transcendant Cause; 
Creation remains, by the same right , creation ex nihilo. 

27 A futile job, in my opinion. [J.M.] 

28 Journet, p. 151. 

29 Ibid. 



But to conclude this Appendix, let us leave Teilhardism and come 
back to Pere Teilhard himself. If some readers of the preceding pages, 
who perhaps have good reasons to be grateful to him, feel outraged by 
my frankness, I beg them simply to turn to the texts from him that I 
have quoted, and, leaving my comments aside, to think over these 
texts with unbiased attention. 

As a matter of fact, Teilhard's ardent metaphysical and theological 
concern played a central role in his thought. It is the themes engen- 
dered by this constant coricern (noble in itself, but misled) that are 
cosmological synthesis. About the evolution of the world and life,' 
taken in its reality discernible to reason , it has taught us nothing that 
all men of science today did not already know. If we remove the ele- 
ment of myth from Teilhard, there remains of his personal contribu- 
tion little more than a powerful lyrical impulse, which he himself has 
taken for a sort of prophetic anticipation. He was not afraid to see, in 
his own case modestly attributed to the favorable workings of "pure 
chance (temperament, education, environment)/' a “new proof that 
it is enough that Truth appear a single time, in a single mind, then 
nothing can prevent it from invading and inflaming all." 30 He was 
without a doubt a man of great imagination. 




30 Le Christique, March, 1955; Journet, p. 147. 


(CF. CHAPTER 6, P. 141) 

In the text I insisted on the irreducible distinction that must be 
recognized between the approach, the mode of conceptualization, 
the kind of relation to the real (in other words, the kind of truth) 
which are proper to the sciences of nature 1 and those proper to the 
philosophy of nature . 2 To come back to that in a slightly more de- 
tailed way, I would like to point out first why it has also been said in 
the text that the natural sciences of nature themselves are far from 
making up a company of the same tenor from the epistemological 
point of view. 

From the fact that they resort to mathematical intelligibility as 
their elected mode of interpreting phenomena, the completely math - 
ematized sciences, like nuclear physics, or the more mathematized , 
like physics in general, find themselves, with respect to interpretation 
or explanation, transferred, by participation, to the type of intelligi- 
bility proper to mathematics, which depends on the "second degree 
of abstraction” and which deals, indifferently, with objects of thought 
either detached from the real by abstraction, but still corresponding 
to some determinate ingredient of the real, or subsequently con- 
structed as mere entia rationis or merely ideal entities. In resorting to 
mathematical intelligibility as their elected means of interpreting 
phenomena, the completely mathematized sciences and the more 
mathematized sciences translate, therefore, or transpose the (ob- 
served reality) into signs or symbols (whether they be particular sys- 
tems of equations or general theories like relativity) which are proper 
to the mathematical type of intelligibility and are intelligible only 
mathematically. And it is in this way, and in this way only, that they 
know, "understand,” or explain "phenomena,” that is to say, the real 
observed insofar and only insofar as it is observed . 3 * 5 From that it fol- 

1 By “sciences of nature" I mean all sciences (physics as well as biology, etc.) 
which deal with things pertaining to the world of matter. 

2 To adopt the vocabulary of the Degrees of Knowledge , let us say that the 
sciences of nature and the philosophy of nature are both related to the first degree 

of abstraction , but the first with a view to an empiriological knowledge and the 

other with a view to an ontological knowledge. 

5 “Empirio-metrical” or empirio-mathematical knowledge. 




lows that they are, no doubt, in their various particular results, preg- 
nant with ontological content, but that this ontological content, being 
transposed into the symbols and ideal entities of mathematical ex- 
planation, remains indiscernible to philosophical intelligence. The 
philosopher is therefore justified in saying that the sciences in ques- 
tion control matter (and in what a formidable fashion) but as an 
unknown reality on which one acts by means of signs, which in a way 
links these highly modern sciences with ancient magic. 

Yet they themselves do not stop there. By very virtue of their con- 
genital aspiration to apprehend the real, an aspiration they share with 
the other sciences except for mathematics, they strive to retranslate 
their mathematical translation of phenomena into the ordinary 
language of men, and for that they resort to hypothetically drawn 
pictures of the observed real or pictures of the world which appeal to 
the imagination but are, as such, of no avail for philosophical intel- 
ligence (except as mere imagery and frame of reference with no on- 
tological meaning). Of the ontological content with which these 
sciences are pregnant, there is discernible to philosophical intelligence 
only the very general existential data, the very general facts that are 
part of the first foundations or first coordinates of their whole work . 
Philosophical intelligence can avail itself of these general facts only 
and give ontological value only to them . 4 

Turning now to those sciences of nature which, while of course em- 
ploying measure, are not mathematized (biology, psychology, soci- 
ology, etc.), they do not translate the observed (observed reality) into 
signs or symbols depending on the mathematical type of intelligibil- 
ity. It is not by mathematics that they know, “understand” or explain 
“phenomena,” that is to say, the real observed insofar and only insofar 
as it is observed. It is by the observable that they explain the observa- 
ble , 5 or in other words by “causal” relationships or rather links of 
conditioning between phenomena. (And this is the reason why the 
ontological content with which they are pregnant may be discernible 
to the philosophical intelligence in certain of the particular results 
themselves of the scientific elaboration.) 

But whether one considers the mathematized sciences or the non- 
mathematized sciences, they all have in common this essential char- 
acter of depending (whether primarily or totally) on that intellection 

4 It is just so, it seems to me, that Claude Tresmontant proceeds with respect to 
astrophysics, in his work on the problem of the existence of God y mentioned 

5 “Empirio-schematic,” or simply empiriological knowledge. 


of an empiriological order 6 which takes hold of the real insofar and 
only insofar as it is observable. Empirio-mathematical or simply em- 
piriological, it is not their business to use signs grasped in experience 
in order to attain, through them, the real in its ontological structure 
or in its being, by a type of intellection 7 that penetrates to the very 
essence (not apprehended in itself, certainly, but through those of its 
properties that fall under experience, outward or inward). That is 
why, as I insisted in Chapter 6, there is an absolutely typical, essential, 
difference between philosophical knowledge and scientific (in the 
modern sense of the word) knowledge, and in particular between the 
philosophy of nature and the sciences of nature taken in general. 

The ancients were not aware of this distinction because their sci- 
ence was still in homogeneous continuity with their philosophy of 
nature and still used the same conceptual vocabulary as the latter. If 
the Thomist philosophy of nature needs to be reshaped, it is not only 
because the science with which it was connected no longer has any 
value, it is also (and primarily) because this connection itself was of a 
kind that is now worthless. In the course of the last three centuries 
science has in effect won complete autonomy with respect tt) philoso- 
phy, and this only intensifies the urgency of the reshaping in question. 

Such a reshaping must take into account, first of all the fundamen- 
tal epistemological datum that I am trying to emphasize here: there 
is continuity, no doubt, between the sciences of nature and the 
philosophy of nature, but not the homogeneous continuity the an- 
cients believed there to be (from the very fact that their science was 
not yet autonomous). It is a continuity of connection between areas 
of knowledge of specifically different types. The philosophy of nature 
does not have to reinterpret in its (ontological) fashion the various 
pictures of the macroscopic or microscopic world drawn by science 
(this would be a pretty mess, especially in dealing with mathema- 
tized sciences); it has to judge of the epistemological value of these 
pictures, and above all it has to disengage— wherever possible— from 
the researches and discoveries of science the ontological content with 
which they are pregnant — a job in which science is not interested. 
This content may be of great philosophical value without, for that 
matter, being furnished in great abundance by science. As examples 
of such content I might mention, on one hand, the simple, very gen- 
eral fact, of basic value to astrophysics and nuclear physics, that the 
cosmos itself and all that is contained within it, down to the ele- 

6 “Perinoetic” intellection. 

7 “Dianoetic” intellection. 


2 73 

mentary structures of matter, is in a state of evolutionary becoming; 
and on the other hand I would mention the fact, woven into the 
particular results of scientific elaboration (but already known by the 
ancients), that between the chemical and the biological (the simplest 
living cell) there is an uncrossable threshold that has been crossed. It 
is the business of philosophy to interpret these facts in its own per- 

, 4 , ** 

In brief, we are confronted here with two knowing entities which 
are working according to two fundamentally different operational 
systems. Let us think of two typewriters equipped with different key- 
boards— or, to use another comparison, of two singers whose ear and 
voice would supposedly be naturally attuned to two different musical 
keys: the scientist singing only songs composed in G, and the philoso- 
pher only songs composed in E. If they are to sing together, it will 
be necessary for the scientist to learn how to sing (m6re or less well) 
in E, and, similarly, for the philosopher to learn how to sihg (more 
or less well) in G. These more or less felicitous comparisons lead us 
back to the two different keyboards of which I spoke earlier. 8 

We might add that the experimental data of which intellection of 
an ontological order makes use, and on which the philosophy of na- 
ture has to be constructed, are not only those that the sciences of na- 
ture furnish and from which an ontological content can sometimes be 
extracted. There is a vast field of experience and observation open to 
the natural intelligence of man where the philosopher, if he has 
enough discernment, can find, without needing to resort to the sci- 
ences of nature, a whole available stock of simpler, and more obvious, 
data offered by sensible experience. That is why a duly reshaped 
Thomist philosophy of nature will, in this very reshaping, have to take 
into account many principles and fundamental notions already used 
by St. Thomas (amid the exemplifications of an unfortunate scien- 
tific context). 

8 Chapter 6, pp. 140-141. 


(CF. CHAPTER J, P. l8l) 

I take the liberty, in this Appendix, to submit to the judgment of the 
theologians some ideas that I believe to be true, but that I express in 
my own manner as a philosopher. 

One must say, it seems to me, that— precisely because the Una 
Sancta is the one and only Church of Christ— her intrinsic organic 
unity , which is perfect in the Catholic Church and is perfect only 
there, deteriorates to the degree that it extends beyond this great city 
perfectly one, and beyond the personality whose seal she bears, to em- 
brace all those men (whether they belong to non-Catholic or to non- 
Christian religious families, or profess unbelief or atheism) who live 
in the grace of Christ and charity: so that all those are, in an imper- 
fect way, no doubt, but in act, members, invisibly, of the only fully 
formed and fully visible Church, which is the Catholic Church. 

One must also say, it seems to me, that the visibility of the Church 
is a dependent variable of the unity that binds together the members 
of her body, animated as it is by charity, which is her soul: full and 
complete visibility when the unity of the body is full and complete 
(that is to say, in the Catholic Church)— diminished, and further and 
further and diminished, to the extent that the unity of the body de- 
creases more and more as it extends beyond the perfectly one struc- 
ture which is that of the Catholic Church. 

Here we are confronted with the question of the body of the 
Church and of her visibility. When we speak of the “body” of the 
Church as contradistinguished from her soul, the word “body” does 
not mean the mystical Body, because the mystical Body obviously 
comprises the soul as well as the “body” of the Church (it includes 
even the angels, St. Thomas says). The body of the Church is first of 
all the human beings who (belonging to her openly and normally if 
they are baptized) are living in grace and charity (which is the created 
soul of the Church)— human beings, at once carnal and spiritual, and 
visible insofar as carnal. But it is not exactly by reason of the visibility 
of these men that the Church is visible; it is by reason of the visibility 
of the things that she herself accomplishes when she possesses her 
full and complete unity: her profession of faith, her form of worship, 
her sacraments, her teaching and judicial authority — and likewise her 

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fecundity, visible through all centuries, in engendering saints— are 
things that are apparent to the senses and outwardly manifested. 
The men who are her members are naturally visible as men, , but they 
are visible insofar as members of the Church— in other words they are 
visibly members of the visible Church— because they participate in 
what the Church herself accomplishes in a visible or outwardly mani- 
fest way. 

It must not be forgotten, moreover, that this notion of the body of 
the Church, as contradistinguished from her soul, is a metaphorical 
notion, an image drawn from the human being, which cannot be ap- 
plied rigidly to an infinitely more mysterious reality. We understand 
that better if we observe that, on one hand, the soul of the Church is 
spiritual, as is the human soul (and more so), while on the other 
hand, the body of the Church is no more separable (and even less so) 
from her soul than the body of an animal not endowed with reason is 
separable from its soul. But even more, the body of the Church defies 
comparison with the human body in this respect, that the body of the 
Church, completely and perfectly formed in the Church— who is her- 
self fully formed, and whose organic unity is perfect and completed 
by personality (in other words in the Only Church, the Catholic 
Church)-— nevertheless oversteps beyond this perfectly formed organ- 
ism to extend, just as the soul of the Church does— on one hand to 
religious families that are still organized but not integrated into her 
perfect unity (the non-Catholic Christian confessions), and on the 
other hand to the great diaspora of those human beings who, in the 
non-Christian religious families or in the areligious spiritual families, 
open themselves to the grace of Christ and to charity. 

How can we imagine this? We would have to resort to a fictitious 
poetic image: let us say a large firebird of an extraordinary kind, which 
would trail behind itself a living fire that is still its body animated by 
its soul, but lacking the perfect organic unity proper to the bird itself. 
This fire, as long as it still has some organic unity, is still visible to 
men (less and less, the more distant it is from the perfect organic 
unity that it enjoys in the bird); but it can also lose all organic unity, 
in a vast galaxy of stars, in each of which it shines in a way that is vis- 
ible to the angels but invisible to men, for the only unity which still 
binds these stars to the other members of the body of the Church 
is that of charity (which no doubt manifests itself in each one 
through a certain behavior, but which, in this case, bears the mark of 
the Church only in the eyes of the angels ). 1 

1 Cf. Ch. 7, p. 181, n. 17. 


In other terms, the Church is essentially visible, but this visibility 
is full and complete only in the Catholic Church, and that is her 
glory: only she bears the torch of God in its fullness, as only she is 
the Church of the Incarnate Word. The body of the Church becomes 
less and less visible the further those who belong to her in the other 
spiritual families escape from her perfect unity. All these men are part 
of the perfectly visible Church, but without being integrated into her 
perfect unity and therefore into her perfect visibility. 

Is it possible to elaborate this truth in greater detail? In my opinion 
the answer is to be found in the communion of saints 2 — I mean in 
the communion of saints understood not in reference to God , or in- 
sofar as charity unites us to God (in this aspect the communion of 
saints is but one with the soul of the Church), but in reference to 
men , or in another of its aspects (too often neglected, except by 
some men of great intuition like Leon Bloy), where charity unites to- 
gether the human members of the Church through a mysterious in- 
terdependence. From this point of view, is not the communion of 
saints but one with the body of the Church? I believe it is. The com- 
munion of saints is the Church herself. It is fitting, therefore, to dis- 
tinguish in it an aspect that corresponds to the soul of the Church 
and an aspect that corresponds to her body. 

Let us consider the multitude of those “saints” living in grace and 
charity— let us say those “just” or “righteous” ones— who are visible 
members of the Church. Is not the supernatural solidarity that unites 
together these visible members of the body of the Church— in a vast 
human family “whose goods are marvelously reversible,” 3 a human 
family that is much more than a “society” (it is a “communion”) 
—is not this solidarity part of the body of the Church, just as are those 
whom it binds one to the other? In the case in question this superna- 
tural solidarity is made manifest, because these visible members of 
the body of the Church are integrated into her perfect unity. But it is 
not made manifest to the eyes of men there where the righteous ones, 
the men who live in grace, are not integrated into the perfect unity of 
the fully formed and fully visible Church; for these righteous men 
have charity within them but charity lacking the three notes (“cultual, 
sacramental, and oriented”) 4 which it has in the fully formed 
Church and which enables it to receive the seal of the Church's per- 
sonality. And they belong to the body of the Church, but in a state of 

2 Cf. L’Eglise du Verbe Iticarne , v. II, pp. 662-667. 

3 Op. cit. y p. 662. 

4 Cf. p. 178, note 14, line 6. 


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dispersion in the individual persons of a vast galaxy without organic 
unity. The only unity that subsists among them and the other mem- 
bers of the body of the Church is that of charity, that of the superna- 
tural solidarity which unites all the just together in the communion of 
saints, but the latter, this time, is not made outwardly manifest and 
remains hidden in its mystery. 

As a result, we understand better that a righteous man who is a 
non-Christian is invisibly part of the visible Church, by reason of the 
communion of saints; in-whith he participates, and which, when there 
is no integration into the perfect unity of the fully formed Church, is 
still— in the aspect I have indicated— the body of the Church, but this 
time the body of the Church in a state that is invisible or not mani- 
fest to the eyes of men. 

The body of the Church is as mysterious as the Church herself. 
Fully visible in the human multitude integrated into the perfect or- 
ganic unity of the Catholic Church, it is, in the diaspora of righteous 
men who live in the grace of Christ while remaining attached to non- 
Christian spiritual families, invisible to the eyes of men and to the 
eyes of these righteous men themselves. Which is not to say that the 
body of the Church is ever, even there, absolutely invisible, or invisi- 
ble "of itself/' Because even there it remains visible "of itself/' and 
visible to the angels; but it is not visible to the eyes of men (except 
perhaps, I should add, to the eyes of those among Christians who, 
fully familiar with the spiritual families I am alluding to, and having a 
sufficiently thorough knowledge of the righteous men in question, 
would be able to discern in them the signs which make perceivable 
the fact— unknown to themselves— that they invisibly belong to 
Christ and to his visible Church. In general such a discernment 
could only be more or less probable, but why could it not, in a given 
instance, appear as certain to the Christians of whom I am speaking? 
Massignon, who knew the mystics of Islam perfectly well, wished that 
some day the Church would canonize Hallaj).